Nearly 300 NY school districts experience problems with ELA computer tests

April 11, 2018 11:28 PM

The State Education Department said students at 263 school districts across New York experienced issues taking their English Language Arts exams on computers Wednesday.

SED said the errors were due to Questar failures. Questar is the company used to administer the computer based tests. From failed log-in's to lost work, the issues were intermittent and time consuming.

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"At the middle school it was reported that students were in their homerooms for four hours,” Shenendehowa Teachers Association President Megan DeLaRosa said. “Some of the elementary schools the average was three hours. At some of the schools students were working until 1 o'clock in the afternoon."

DeLaRosa said it was a trying day to say the least.

“It's an anxious day for students,” she said. “We tell them to be prepared for it, to be well rested, to get a good breakfast. They come in, they want to do their best and they want to get it over with and it was just very frustrating for them and for their teachers."

DeLaRosa said it will most likely be up to each individual district to decide how and when students will make up the tests.

"So in addition to having the stress of having to do the test over they're also going to be then missing classes and have to make up that work while they're making up the test they were there for on the original day,” she said.

The computer issues also bring up questions about fairness.

"Students take it in one day, they're able to secure the tests to make sure that students aren't necessarily interacting with one another and discussing it, things like that so testing security has definitely been compromised,” DeLaRosa said.

Executive Vice President of New York State United Teachers Jolene DiBrango issued a statement on Wednesday, calling for SED to "slow down and get it right.”

"If children are going to sit for a state standardized test and are prepared to do their very best, the State Education Department must be able to guarantee that the tests are fair and accurate, and they don't leave kids anxious and rattled," DiBrango said in the statement.

DeLaRosa agrees.

"Technology is great when it works,” she said. “I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with using technology, but there needs to be a backup plan and there really wasn't a backup plan in this case."

DeLaRosa said she thinks these widespread issues only further undermine parent and teacher confidence in the testing decisions being made by SED. Despite the issues, a SED spokesperson said nearly 50,000 students successfully completed their exams on a computer. The statement also said Questar "resolved the matter as quickly as possible with the delay times varying."

SED is reminding schools that there is flexibility in the testing schedule. Schools had the option of postponing testing on Wednesday and resuming in the afternoon or on another day. Either way, the ELA computer based testing will continue.


Emily Burkhard

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