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Computer-based ELA state assessments will resume Thursday for grades 5 and 8, N.Y. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced Wednesday afternoon.

The State Education Department is “staggering” computer-based testing to certain grades “to provide a more reliable and successful experience for schools by limiting the number of testers accessing the system at the same time,” according to a press release from NYSED. Paper-based tests will be made available to all schools that prefer that option, the agency said.

Computer-based testing was disrupted Tuesday statewide when the assessment company’s “database servers ran out of free memory” due to high volume, the education department said in a press release.

This caused a variety of problems for users including inability to log into the testing system, inability to submit completed tests and users being kicked out of the system, the department said.

Questar Assessment diagnosed the cause of the disruptions and implemented corrective action to address the problems, according to the agency.

“All schools may resume computer-based testing tomorrow and continue testing Friday for grades 5 and 8,” the education department said in the press release.

“Schools that have already completed testing in grades 5 and 8 may test in one other grade tomorrow and Friday. Tomorrow, the department will announce the testing plan for the week of April 8.

“The Department is working with Questar and the BOCES Regional Information Centers to get additional paper-based tests and scoring sheets to schools that request switching to paper-based tests.

“Of the 93,100 total students that started tests on Tuesday, 93 percent of, or 86,500, students that started testing sessions successfully completed and submitted their tests that day,” the state said. Questar and the department are working with schools to process the completed but not yet submitted tests for the remaining students, NYSED said.

No students will be asked to retake testing sessions.

New York State United Teachers objected to the state’s decision.

“In 2018, students, parents and educators were assured that the failures of New York’s computer-based test system for grades 3–8 would not be repeated. This week, we found out that assurance was hollow as testing quickly deteriorated into a chaotic, stressful situation for the entire school community,” NYSUT said in a statement issued in response to the NYSED announcement.

“A stop-gap corrective action plan is far from the significant overhauls that must be made to restore any semblance of trust in the state testing system,” NYSUT said.

“Computer-based testing must be halted, and not only should Questar be held accountable for this debacle, the state must be as well.”

Elia vowed Questar will be held accountable for the problems for which, she said, “there is no excuse.”

The department is reviewing its contract with Questar to determine actions to hold Questar financially accountable for its failure to fulfill its contract to deliver reliable and seamless computer-based assessments in New York state, Elia said.

The education department said schools could contact the department at [email protected] or call 518-474-5902 or the regional information centers for more information.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.