Fort Bend ISD experiences STAAR test glitches, some results unused

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Like many school districts across the state, Fort Bend ISD suffered obstacles during the 2015-16 school year with state standardized exams, which affected students’ 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.

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

“[In March], we had three campuses that had results sent to other campuses,” FBISD Director of Assessment Thomas Negri said. “We had two students who did not have results at all.”

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 the contract of 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.

“ETS could not find these students,” Negri said. “The end result with these students, unfortunately, is that they were required to take the May retest.”

Eventually, he said, the original results arrived and revealed those students had passed in the first round of testing.

Some children also received duplicate, although not identical, results attributed to the incorrect schools.

Negri said overall, however, fewer than 50 FBISD students were affected by testing and reporting problems.

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.

Morath announced in April that negatively affected results in March for the reading and math sections for grades 5 and 8, as well as the May retakes, would not be included in the overall index scores of districts and campuses.

The same concession was made for grades 4 and 7 writing sections, and high school English tests.

He also canceled a June retake of those tests.

Grades 5 and 8 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.”

Culbertson attributed some of the result mix-ups to the vendor’s carrier delivering the wrong results. Despite the statewide issues, Negri said FBISD was far less affected than other districts in Texas, admitting that the first year of testing for a new vendor is challenging.

“We don’t want to see any student suffer through a bad testing experience,” he said. “We’ve voiced our concerns with the Texas Education Agency and ETS, and we hope that next year will be smoother.”

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