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NYS postpones computer testing after technical glitches around the state

New York State postponed computer-based testing in English Language Arts scheduled for Wednesday after technical problems Tuesday left some students unable to submit the tests.

School districts also had problems connecting with the portal, operated by the state's vendor, Questar.

The state "expects seamless administration" of its computer-based testing program.

"We will use this time to work with Questar to ensure the system will operate smoothly" when computer-based testing, the Education Department said in a statement. State officials said they would work with schools to resolve outstanding issues related to the administration of computer-based tests.

A state Education Department spokeswoman said the state advised schools that had not started the computer tests Tuesday morning to hold off.

Meanwhile, the state teachers union called on the state to immediately halt computer-based testing.

The two-day state assessments in ELA for third through eighth graders started this week, while math tests are to start in May. Schools have a three-day window to administer the paper-based tests, and an eight-day window to give the computer-based tests.

One district that had problems is Iroquois Central. Superintendent Douglas Scofield said staff members were checking the connections at Wales Primary School before third and fourth graders took the test on computers Tuesday morning, and there was a problem with connections.

"It wasn't connecting to the state, there were troubles on the state side of it," Scofield said.

He said by then, the district had heard other schools around the state were having problems, so it postponed the test for those students until Wednesday.

"So it worked out to our advantage," he said.

Also at Iroquois Tuesday, some students at the Middle School were not able to submit their tests to the state at the completion of the assessment. He said those students were able to submit the tests later in the day, and the school was waiting for confirmation the tests had been received.

This was the first year students at Frontier Central were using computers to take the test, and they had similar problems, Superintendent Richard Hughes said. He said the district had decided that students in fifth and sixth grades would take the computer tests this year. The state's goal is to have all students use computers next year.

"Until this is perfected and we have a provider that can guarantee that computer-based testing operates smoothly, then it's not ready for prime time," he said.

The test vendor reported more than 84,000 testing sessions were submitted Tuesday, and it had dispatched additional staff around the state to provide technical assistance to schools, according to the state.

But New York State United Teachers, which launched a campaign this week to "Correct the tests," said it had received reports of "widespread computer failures" similar to some problems experienced last year.

"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," a statement from the union said.

The union believes computer-based testing has been rolled out too quickly, and technical problems cause undue stress to children taking the tests.

Ian Rosenblum, executive director of the Education Trust-New York, said in a statement that the state is taking the technical issues seriously, and "we wish that the opponents of state assessments would stop politicizing the tests while students are taking them."

The New York State PTA also issued a statement on Twitter, calling for a review of the contract with Questar and of computer-based testing. The statement said the failure of the vendor "put unnecessary stress and anxiety on children, and that is unacceptable."

In light of the delay Wednesday, the state extended the testing window for the computer tests.

Teachers union calls state tests flawed



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