School administrators statewide had to deal with a system slow down during the STAAR online testing Tuesday morning.
TEA explained that it’s up to districts how many online tests will be available for students, but those tests are typically available for students who receive accommodations.
Austin ISD said that around 1,800 of their students taking the online STAAR test Monday were impacted. Most of those students receive academic support, for example, special needs students. The district explained that campuses were given the option to suspend testing Tuesday, but hasn’t confirmed yet which schools– if any– did so.
Leander ISD said that 450 of their students were impacted.
“Our testing vendor notified us this morning that some of our students across the state experienced some intermittent connectivity issues while they were taking the online version of the STAAR test,” explained Lauren Callahan, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency.
Callahan said she didn’t know what caused the system to slow down, but TEA does know that there were 110,000 students online at the time the problem happened, and it’s possible that any of those students were impacted. She explained that students experienced things like frozen screens, slowness in opening the test, and slowness in being able to log off from the test to take a break.
TEA explained the delays lasted more than an hour.
“All students who still need to finish the test or take the test should be able to do so,” Callahan said. Everything was back to normal by 11 a.m., TEA said.
Bill McHenry, an Associate Professor of Counseling and Education at St. Edwards University, teaches about standardized testing and noted that for some students, changing conditions around the STAAR test can impact their score.
“When you’re ready to perform, if there’s a delay– if there’s a rain delay so to speak — that can change anxiety levels, that can change focus,” he explained.
“It’s also a concern if students are not prepared or having an off day that day where the results can be skewed rather negatively,” McHenry said.
He added that the way students are prepared for testing can also impact how well they adjust to these changes, for example, if they have practiced taking tests online they will likely do better with that format of testing.
McHenry noted that statewide testing does provide an important way to measure students against students or schools against schools. But he also noted these measurements have their limits.
“The best a test can do is to try and measure closely where somebody is, they are never 100 percent accurate,” he said.
For parents or students concerned about their scores after a stressful test, McHenry noted that it’s important to consider the full picture of how that student was doing the day of the test.
“Knowing the state of your mind of your child or your student going into it, knowing what they were experiencing in the world can have a really important understanding for both you and the student on the actual results,” he said.