STAAR test glitches affect 2015-16 results for Pearland, Friendswood ISD students

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Like many school districts across the state, Pearland and Friendswood ISDs suffered obstacles during the 2015-16 school year with state standardized exams, which affected student testing experiences and the reporting of scores.

Problems with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests, including online connectivity issues and inaccurate results, began in March and delayed the reporting
of scores this summer.

“There were some issues in March with about 14,000 online tests,” Texas Education Agency spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said.

Afterward, some campuses received other schools’ scores for March tests and May retake tests.Fort Bend ISD experiences STAAR test glitches, some results unused

“Like all other Texas districts, Pearland ISD experienced technical difficulties with the administration of STAAR exams this spring,” said Lisa Nixon, PISD director of testing and evaluation, in an emailed statement. “We promptly reported these issues to TEA and [vendor Educational Testing Service], and both worked with us to resolve the problems and ensure accurate test results.”

Nixon declined to say what campuses and how many students were affected, not wanting to cause parents “unnecessary concern,” PISD communication specialist Courtney Morris said.

Friendswood ISD also experienced problems, according to the district.

“FISD experienced difficulties, like other districts across the state,” FISD Communications Director Dayna Owens said. “Whether it was technical difficulties, shipping issues or reporting delays, we worked quickly to resolve any problems with the administrations.”

The number of FISD students affected was less than 0.5 percent of the test takers, said Stacy Daugherty, FISD executive director of accountability, testing, and research.

Culberston said the TEA attributes the slew of problems to Educational Testing Service, which started as a testing vendor in the 2015-16 school year after a contract with the previous vendor, Pearson Education, expired.

The TEA on Aug. 23 directed ETS to invest $15 million in its services as a result of the online testing issues and fined the company $5.7 million in liquidated damages.

The STAAR test measures Texas students’ academic progress in math, reading, social studies and science. High school students take end-of-course exams in English, U.S. history, algebra and biology.

Due to the problems with STAAR tests across the state, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath amended the consequences of affected scores.

He announced in April that negatively affected results for the reading and math sections for fifth and eighth grades, as well as the May retakes, would not be included in the overall scores of districts and campuses.

The same concession was made for the writing sections for fourth and eighth grades as well as high school English tests. He also canceled a June retake of those tests.

Fifth and eighth grade math and reading tests are determining factors for grade promotion.

In a June 10 letter, Morath instructed districts to use their discretion on whether to promote the students to the next grade. Because of the issues, the TEA delayed results to districts this summer to perform quality checks, Culbertson said.

“I think it was just a matter of first-time testing,” Culbertson  said. “We’re testing 1 million to 3 million kids at a time, and if you’re a new vendor, sometimes there can be glitches with your delivery service, with getting everybody on track of how this is done.”

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