Education

STAAR testing resumed at Central Texas school districts Wednesday, the day after a system failure prompted many Texas districts to delay or cancel testing.

Temple Independent School District reported that testing at two campuses was held without interruptions in the online Educational Testing Service system.

“Testing went smoothly today,” Lisa Adams, TISD’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said Wednesday. “We had two campuses test today, and there were not any technical errors. However, tomorrow will be a better indicator of ETS ability to handle a greater load as we will have nine campuses testing.”

On Tuesday, a system failure prevented districts from administering tests online. Students often were unable to log in to the test. If they could do so, slow response times hampered students.

Students are required to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests in person this year at monitored test sites, The Texas Tribune reported.

Writing tests for fourth and seventh graders were disrupted, as were English I tests for high school students, the Texas Education Agency said.

Federal and state law mandate that students in grades three through 12 take the STAAR exams, and in some cases how they do determines if they graduate or move up to the next grade, The Tribune reported. Texas has said fifth and eighth grade students who don’t pass required STAAR exams this year may move up to the next grades. But high school students must pass five subject-specific courses to graduate, a requirement that will not be waived this year.

Educational Testing Service, a company that contracts with the state to develop and administer the test, is investigating the issue, according to TEA. ETS will no longer administer statewide testing services after this spring as Cambium Assessment, another standardized testing company, will take over those duties starting in the 2021-22 school year, The Tribune reported.

The standardized tests — scheduled to continue until May 14 — usually have a 4- or 5-hour time limit for students to complete, depending on the subject.

Belton ISD Superintendent Matt Smith said the system failure added undue stress to students, staff and families on Tuesday.

“Finite taxpayer dollars and student instructional time are being wasted for testing results that yield minimal benefits,” Smith said in a statement. “TEA must recognize with more than just public statements that such squandering of resources is not acceptable.”

Adams, the TISD assistant superintendent, said “as a district, we choose to move students as quickly as possible after the ETS network failure and return to a regular school day.”

“Most campuses choose to put off testing until Thursday, to ensure that ETS was ready to support online testing, and to give teachers the opportunity to discuss the challenge with students and reset for testing on Thursday,” Adams said. “This school year has taught us to be resilient, and our staff maintained a calm environment for our students,” she said.