School districts using computer-based testing for this week’s grades 3-8 English language arts assessments will hold off on testing today after a series of glitches Tuesday.

The New York State Education Department reported Tuesday there was slowness with its exam vendor, Questar Assessment Inc., making it difficult for students to submit their tests. A few hours later, the department announced it had decided to cancel computer-based testing today so it can work out the kinks.

“We will use this time to work with Questar to ensure the system will operate smoothly when CBT resumes,” said state Education Department spokesperson Emily DeSantis in a statement. “In addition, NYSED will work with schools to provide guidance on how to resolve outstanding issues with today’s CBT administration. We thank our districts and schools for their incredible support and patience as we work through these issues.”

Only about 25 percent of school districts across the state elected to use computer-based testing, according to the state Education Department. Districts still using paper tests will continue testing as normal today.

The Allegany-Limestone Central School District was one of the local districts using computer-based testing and affected by Tuesday’s glitches. Superintendent Tony Giannicchi said that while the issues did not cause students to lose their work, they did create extra hassle.

“Instead of a kid pressing a button and submitting everything, now you got to take all the laptops, put them in a room, wait for directions, make sure Questar is ready to have them submitted,” he said. “For the school, we got great tech people, great teachers that have everything ready, administrators that have everything ready. Then you have a vendor that kind of falls flat.”

The issues were particularly frustrating for Giannicchi considering there were similar issues with Questar last year. This is now the second year in a row that technical difficulties have interrupted computer-based testing.

“They’re going to work on making sure everything is up and running. It’s been a year since they did the test. You think they would have done that piece already,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one frustrated. New York State United Teachers, the state’s 600,000-member teachers union, released a statement Tuesday demanding the state take action to correct the issues.

“Despite claims to the contrary, clearly the state has not taken the actions needed to ensure that technological issues will not unduly burden students taking these already flawed state exams on computers,” the statement read. “The state must immediately halt computer-based testing to ensure that our children will not be penalized because of the mistakes adults have made in rolling out this faulty system.”

In order to provide “additional flexibility,” the state Education Department said it will extend the testing window for districts using computer-based testing.

Giannicchi said teachers would adjust to today being a non-testing day and the district will adjust its planned testing days in order for students to complete the exams.

While the district had already scaled back to just a couple grade levels doing computer-based testing for next month’s grades 3-8 math assessments, Giannicchi said the glitches may also force the district to eventually scale back from using computers for the ELA.

“If they don’t figure it out here pretty fast, that might be something we talk about pretty seriously for next year,” he said.

Giannicchi said the district decided to do computer-based testing a couple years ago in order to get their results back faster. The hope was to give teachers more time with the results so they could better plan for their individual students’ strengths and weaknesses.

However, the issues may not be worth it.

“(Computer-based testing) should be easier, not harder,” he said.

 

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at tdinki@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)

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