EDUCATION
12/04/2012 06:28 pm ET

STAAR Exam Computer Glitch Prevents Thousands Of Texas Students From Retaking Test

Thousands of Texas students couldn't finish the electronic version of a state-mandated, end-of-course exam due to a computer glitch Monday, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Students and testing coordinators had difficulty launching the system or logging back on during a Monday administration of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exam. Of the approximately 19,000 students slated to take the online version, nearly 3,400 encountered problems signing on, according to the Statesman. Most were taking the writing portion of the English I exam.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told the paper that contractor Pearson Education apparently had a computer server issue.

“We and the testing contractor are certainly looking at the situation to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but any company that deals with servers know that sometimes they act up, and unfortunately, that happened today,” Ratcliffe said.

Pearson has a five-year, $468 million contract to create the state’s tests through 2015. A spokesman declined to comment in an email to the Statesman on Monday afternoon.

Some districts switched to a paper version of the test in light of the computer failure, while others are postponing the exam until later this week, the Associated Press reports.

The STAAR is meant to be a more rigorous replacement for the previous Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. The state offers three STAAR exams each in math, science, social studies, reading and writing.

Under state law, high school students are required to pass 15 end-of-course STAAR tests in order to graduate, though the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports some state legislators are looking to reduce that number.

According to the paper, student failure rates on the new exams were highest in reading and writing. After two rounds of testing, nearly 135,000 students -- or 40 percent -- have yet to pass the writing exam.

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