Editorial: Second year of test snafus unacceptable 

First-year bugs are understandable. But two years in a row? State needs to investigate whether to go forward with computerized testing.

Same company. Same types of computer issues. Same types of delays and disruptions. Same stresses on students and educators.

About the only thing different from last year’s bungled roll-out of computerized standardized testing in New York is the year at the top of the calendar.

Otherwise, the state Education Department and its testing vendor, Questar Assessment, have overseen another flawed experiment, once again using our kids as guinea pigs.

If you’ll recall, last year around this time, the state’s first attempts to convert from traditional paper exams to computer-based exams were met with delays, false starts and problems submitting answers.

Many students were unable to start the tests at all. Districts had trouble uploading completed exams. Many systems simply crashed. 

The problem was blamed largely on Questar, the company hired by the state to develop and deliver the tests.

At the time, the state teachers union, NYSUT, protested the conversion to computer-based exams, urging State Ed to “slow down and get it right.” In an editorial, we recommended the state stick with paper exams until all the bugs could be worked out.

Now here we are in April 2019, with the state and Questar having had a full year to identify the problems with last year’s exams and to work out all the issues before they administered new tests to the next lucky group of students.

And what happens?  Deja vu all over again. Same problems; different year.

Some districts got so frustrated Tuesday that they gave up and postponed the day’s testing — not wanting to further upset students.

The state Education Department’s website stated, “Questar is aware of the issue and is working to correct it.”

Well, they were aware of it a year ago, and yet here we are again.

Standardized testing is challenging enough for school districts, teachers and students. Not only does it disrupt regular classroom teaching, but it places an undue amount of stress on students. 

For the same problems to arise for the second straight year is something state education officials, school districts, teacher unions and state lawmakers should find intolerable.

The state needs to heed calls from NYSUT and others to put a halt to all computerized statewide school testing until a full investigation has been completed — including into the ability of this company to meet its contractual obligations — and until a reliable system can be confidently put into place.

This can’t be allowed to happen for a third year.

Problems with computerized testing should be a rare exception, not an annual occurrence.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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