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.
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.