Downed Server Interrupts STAAR Testing at San Antonio Schools

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An example of a classroom with no windows and poorly equipped laboratory for science experiments. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Some students taking STAAR exams online in North East, Northside, and San Antonio ISDs were interrupted by a computer glitch.

While some Texas students used pen and paper to take state STAAR exams Tuesday, others used computers. Of the online test takers, around 40,000 experienced a computer glitch that interrupted their exams.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the computer issue, which lasted roughly 20 minutes, came from one server that unexpectedly shut down. He said no data was lost, but students did have to log back in for their exams.

The glitch interrupted some exams in North East, Northside, and San Antonio independent school districts.

"For us, the technical difficulties lasted a short period of time and were less impactful because many schools were breaking for student lunch about that same time," NISD spokesman Barry Perez wrote in an email, noting that no schools have indicated a need to extend testing.

NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said the issue impacted students who took exams online, including special education students and all students at the International School of the Americas, a magnet school located on the campus of Robert E. Lee High School.

SAISD received a "handful of calls" on the matter, spokeswoman Leslie Price said, adding that only a small percentage of SAISD students test online.

South San and Southside ISDs said their students did not experience any issues in taking exams.

Morath addressed the problem at a State Board of Education meeting in Austin Wednesday morning, saying the geographic impact was "fairly widespread" among the 40,000 students.

"The issue was discovered more or less immediately and resolved as quickly as possible," he said.

STAAR exams, which test students in grades 3-8 on reading, writing, and math, and high school students on end-of-course exams, will continue through the rest of this week. Schools will administer additional rounds of STAAR tests in May and June.

Morath said he plans to speak with test developer Educational Testing Service (ETS) about possible solutions should servers crash in the future.

Two years ago, the Texas Education Agency dinged ETS with a $20.7 million fine for computer-related problems with STAAR exams. The 2016 issues impacted thousands of students and resulted in the loss of answers from about 14,000 online exams.

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