Technical Issues Delay and Cancel Student Evaluations in Texas
Apr 15, 2021

Technical Issues Delay and Cancel Student Evaluations in Texas

Reporting Texas TV

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Statewide technical glitches on April 6 interrupted about 250,000 online exams administered by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). 

Students taking written STAAR exams were able to finish without any technical issues. Those taking virtual exams could not continue midway or even log in.

A teacher from San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District who asked to remain anonymous said this created a panic for test proctors. 

“I went out into the hall to ask for help, and there was nobody around because they were all running to other rooms that were having the same issue, trying to figure out what was going on,” the teacher said. 

English I exams were postponed until April 20, while fourth and seventh-grade writing exams were canceled entirely. 

“Literally, they said that if you’re going to take the writing one, then you don’t have to take it and it doesn’t count for anything,” said Kiley Adams, a seventh grade student.

“I was very confused as to why we were going to take it in the first place.”

Aubrey Chancellor, the communications director for Northeast ISD, said the STAAR test evaluates a student’s academic proficiency and compares that to other Texas students in their grade. 

“Some would argue that this year, the STAAR exam was more important than ever because we really have no gauge right now on where students are falling,” Chancellor said

She said the COVID-19 pandemic imposed multiple hardships on traditional learning. 

Several technical issues occurred in virtual learning platforms such as Zoom and Schoology as a result of a major influx of online students since the start of the pandemic. 

“We’ve kind of known for about a year now that you need to have certain things in place so that there aren’t failures at this wide scale. And I just don’t know how somebody missed this,” the Northeast ISD teacher said. 

The Texas Education Agency issued a statement about the technical issues the morning they occurred. It reads in part:

We are still analyzing data to determine the number of students affected. Students could have experienced four different scenarios with online testing today:

1) the student could have successfully submitted the test without disruption;
2) the student could have successfully submitted answers but may have noticed unusually slow response times;
3) the student could have been prevented from logging in to begin with; or
4) the student could have begun to answer questions, but at some point was prevented from continuing, and in this instance, answers were saved every thirty seconds so that these students will be able to pick up where they left off.

We understand the frustration this has caused students, parents, teachers, and administrators. What happened today is completely unacceptable. ETS, the testing vendor, experienced problems with their database system, which are in the process of being corrected. The 2021 online administration of STAAR will be ETS’s last for the State of Texas. Beginning next school year, Cambium Assessment will be taking over these critical testing functions to ensure that users have a seamless online testing experience moving forward.

“All involved in public education in Texas should expect better than what they have experienced today; we are working to ensure that our students do not experience future testing issues.”

The Texas Education Agency said virtual students choosing to not take the STAAR exam this year would not be penalized. Chancellor said high school students still must pass five end-of-course exams in order to graduate, including English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology, and U.S. History. 

A student fills in a scantron on April 15, 2021. STAAR testers taking handwritten exams on April 6 were able to finish, while technical issues suspended online tests. (Photo: Kenny Jones)