SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah schools are encountering a number of problems with the rollout of a new standardized testing system with a history of glitches and security issues.
The state signed a $44 million contract last spring with school testing company Questar Assessment Inc. despite knowing about the issues, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Now, students and teachers are reporting issues including unreliable results during tests as they use the system for the first time this spring.
Documents obtained by the Tribune show that Questar reported previous issues with administering tests in its proposal to the state. Sensitive student data was stolen from schools in New York and Mississippi. In another case, one school district threw out its results after saying the software was unreliable.
Utah signed the contract with the testing company despite clearly knowing about the issue. The rollout hasn’t gone well.
Students’ computer screens have frozen as they try to submit their work, and many haven’t been able to recover their work. The issues have meant more than 18,000 public school students in Utah haven’t been able to complete their assessments in April and May.
A representative for Questar said they recognize their platform’s weaknesses and are working to improve the system.
Federal law requires students to take annual standardized exams covering a range of subjects in grades three through eight, as well as at least once in high school.
“Every year, I have students in tears,” said Chelsie Acosta, an eighth grade educator at Glendale Middle School. With this year’s delays, she said, it’s been much worse.
State officials have had to expand the testing window into June, and are questioning whether the scores will even be accurate. School officials rely on the data to assign grades for school performance, assess which schools need more funding and address other educational issues.
The Tribune reports none of the other three bidders reported as many issues. Performance Matters, a Utah-based company, reported no complaints at all, though it had less experience. Of the finalists, Questar offered the cheapest price and won the contract.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson announced earlier this month that Utah will hire a third party to review the tests, how accurate they are and how much the delay might have impacted scores.
“Unfortunately, the mounting issues with the operating platform created by Questar Assessment bring up many questions that will need to be answered,” she wrote in a letter to teachers and administrators. “We are less confident about overall accountability.”