Computer glitch keeps some Texas students from retaking high-stakes exam

From staff and wire reports
December 4th, 2012

While some districts improvised and switched to the paper version of the test, some did not have enough paper tests and had to postpone the exam.

Advocates of computer-based testing point out there are several benefits to delivering exams online, such as the ability for test-makers to design richer assessments and for educators to get the results back much faster.

But a potential downside was exposed Dec. 3 when a server glitch derailed thousands of Texas high school students from retaking an electronic version of a state-mandated exam.

The problems started when students and testing coordinators either had trouble launching the testing system or, if a student took a break, had difficulty logging back on.

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It appears a computer server used by testing contractor Pearson Education displayed error signs when logging in to access the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, end-of-course exam, a state official said. Most students were retaking the writing portion of the English I exam, which they failed last spring.

The glitch comes as education officials in more than 40 states prepare to move to online high-stakes testing by 2014 as part of the Common Core standards initiative. Texas is not one of those states, but it is moving toward online testing on its own through a contract with Pearson.