Changes made to STAAR standardized tests after glitches

STAAR test file photo (KXAN photo)
STAAR test file photo (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students across Texas begin taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test Tuesday, while state education officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of last year.

Texas Education Agency officials say revamped efforts and nearly $20 million in improvements should help avoid glitches with the tests during the first year that New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) administered the Texas exams. Last March, more than 14,000 students had their answers erased or were given wrong versions of the test. Some of the students’ scores were sent to random locations and other scores were found to have been reported inaccurately.

TEA official Lauren Callahan says more safeguards are in place, such as redesigned delivery and tracking systems, plus the testing company significantly boosted its server capabilities.

“It’s important for parents to note that TEA officials and ETS officials went to the regional service centers last year and they spoke with superintendents from every region to hear the issues they might have had, to hear their concerns so we’ve certainly taken a lot into account over the last year,” Callahan said.

STAAR testing determines whether some students get promoted or graduate and measures how well schools are doing too.

Another change this year involves time —  the STAAR exam will be shorter. In the past, students spent a lot of time taking the test. Thanks to a 2015 bill, students will now be allowed to finish the test within a certain period of time.

Austin Independent School District told KXAN their schools are cautiously optimistic that testing will run smoothly. They gave feedback to TEA last year on how to improve the process but did not provide specifics on any changes this year.

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