Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Widespread problems with state exams once again; should Questar be ditched?

gif h/t Chris Cerrone

Widespread problems with the computer-based state testing are being reported throughout the state today. This affected fifth graders in about nine NYC schools according to Pat Willens of WNYC.

In the morning, the NYS Education Department advised schools not to start students on computer-based testing today if they hadn't already begun to do so:
Good Afternoon,

    Here is a statement on the Computer Based Grades 3-8 ELA Assessments that can be attributed to Emily DeSantis, Spokesperson for the Department: “Questar's computer-based testing system experienced delays at some schools this morning. We are in contact with schools across the state and are keeping them informed. Despite these intermittent delays this morning, more than 60,000 test sessions have already been submitted today. All student data is automatically saved on the local device. We are advising schools that have not yet started testing today to have students begin tomorrow. We have a nine-day testing window to allow flexibility for all CBT users to have the best testing experience.”

Later in the day, they put out this statement:



In light of reports of Computer Based Testing (CBT) technical difficulties from the field, NYSED has designated tomorrow as a CBT non-testing day. Therefore, there will be no CBT testing tomorrow. 
NYSED expects seamless administration of its CBT program and we will use this time to work with Questar to ensure the system will operate smoothly when CBT resumes. In addition, NYSED will work with schools to provide guidance on how to resolve outstanding issues with today’s CBT administration.
We thank our districts and schools for their incredible support and patience as we work through these issues.
Questar reports more than 84,000 testing sessions were submitted today. Questar has dispatched additional staff around the state to provide technical assistance to schools.
To provide additional flexibility to schools, NYSED has extended the testing window for CBT ELA.

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "In an emergency conference call with state assessment directors, department officials described the problem as "essentially an overload of students across the state seeking to submit their e-assessments at or near the same time, causing significant upload and submission issues."

Meanwhile, NYSUT, the state teachers union, released the following statement:

NYSUT Media Relations
518- 213-6000 ext. 6313
Email: mediarel@nysutmail.org

NYSUT demands state action amid more computer-based test issues
ALBANY, N.Y. April 2, 2019 - New York State United Teachers today released
the following statement on reported issues with this year's computer-based
tests for students in grades 3-8:
"Students across the state are barely 24 hours into this year's
computer-based testing period for grades 3-8, and we already are receiving
reports of widespread computer failures similar to the issues that created
havoc in 2018. Despite claims to the contrary, clearly the state has not
taken the actions needed to ensure that technological issues will not unduly
burden students taking these already flawed state exams on computers. The
state must immediately halt computer-based testing to ensure that our
children will not be penalized because of the mistakes adults have made in
rolling out this faulty system."
The NY state PTA also spoke out and recommended that the contract with Questar be reconsidered, as well as the move to expand computerized-testing, which the Commissioner has a goal to fully adopt by 2020:

I say enough is enough! Questar bandwidth problems also occurred last year, which the Commissioner Elia called "inexcusable." Not to mention, a breach of student data.  All that added to the fact that, according to most teachers, the tests themselves continue to be of very low quality.
In Tennessee, Questar was fired because of continued technical problems, and soon after, their State Commissioner left.  The NY Board of Regents should consider following Tennessee's example, in both cases.
Please leave a comment below about what you as a parent were told by your child about the state exams this week.  Also teachers let us know what you experienced yesterday and today, either with computerized testing or paper-and-pencil tests, and whether you think these exams should be ditched and given over to another vendor.  thanks!


Anonymous said...

Grade 6 was atrocious today. Second excerpt was from “Under the Persimmon Tree”, which according to Scholastic is for grades 9-12 and is a reading level Y. It was set in Afghanistan, and the character names and some other words were foreign language for all of our students. It was extremely difficult to keep track of who all of the characters were. Grade 4 had that same damn question!!!! And the same problem - the adults in each passage were not exactly identifiable... unreal!! The last excerpt was an Eskimo story, again with many foreign words. The students were asked to compare the adult characters from both stories in the extended response, but many could not decipher who the adults were in the story. Kids were working until dismissal from the beginning of the day, their only break being for lunch. So unbelievably unfair!!

Anonymous said...

Fifth grade students (including English language learners) were denied phys ed today to complete the ELA. Students who didn’t finish in the morning were supposed to return to their testing room in the afternoon. Those who were done got to attend phys ed. We started the test at 9:30 and the last student finished at 3:05. Since this is an “untimed test” the students can literally take all day to finish. These are students who are productively working, trying their hardest. It is very sad to watch. Some complained of stomach aches or put their heads down to rest a bit. These students are 10 years old.

Jack said...

This reminds me of “Die Hard 4”, where the same total infrastructure collapse was shown, including complete failure of the Internet, turning off traffic lights and mobile? Although there was another terrorist attack there, and here we are seeing system overload, due to the fact that too much data was attempted to be saved simultaneously. It is good that FastEssay or any writing service support does not need to be loaded into this system, otherwise it would break not only during the exam.
The government should be ashamed of such an infrastructure. And for having forced 10-year-old students to take tests during the whole day. Seriously, what century are we living in? I would not be surprised if the era of Windows 3.1 will return soon.