SALT LAKE CITY — Utah schools are reporting technical problems with the state's new computer-adaptive RISE test administered to students in grades 3-8, according to Utah State Board of Education staff.
The issue affected tests administered Thursday and science testing attempted on Friday, impacting some 18,429 students. The issue did not impact students who submitted tests earlier in the testing window.
Utah State Board of Education assessment and accountability staff are working with RISE vendor Questar to determine whether the service interruption will impact the validity of the students’ test results.
Early reports indicated the testing system started to slow about 10:45 a.m. Thursday, which caused the vendor’s servers to drop in and out of service.
Some students taking tests received error notices as they attempted to submit their tests.
Darin Nielsen, assistant superintendent of student learning, said the test vendor, Questar, believes the data from the tests can be recovered.
When technological problems persisted Friday, the vendor recommended suspending science testing until Monday when the issues should be resolved.
“We were planning for — though not expecting — the kinds of issues associated with any new computer testing system and have been transparent with districts and charter schools about problems affecting our students during the winter and spring testing windows. We continue to work with our vendor to provide a valid and reliable state assessment system," Nielsen said in a statement.
The state school board has a 10-year, $44 million contract with Questar for RISE assessments to be given annually to students in grades 3-8 in language arts and math using online multi-stage adaptive testing. Beginning in fourth grade, science is also tested. In grades 5 and 8, writing is tested.
RISE is an acronym for Readiness, Improvement, Success, and Empowerment. RISE was selected by the state school board as a replacement for SAGE testing.
Over five years of using computer-based testing, including the administration of RISE earlier this year, there have been some technological challenges but none on this scale, Nielsen said.
"I'm not aware of a service interruption that impacted a full day, or in this case, more than a day with science, of statewide testing," he said. He described the events as "highly unusual."
RISE mid-year testing conducted in December, January and February had no service interruptions, he said.
"Our expectation, both held in our contract and in practice, is that the tests are available during the window on every minute of every day that's outlined during our test window so those are available for our students and our teachers to participate in," Nielsen said.
While the vendor has offered assurances the testing will be ready to go on Monday, Nielsen said state education officials are attune to issues raised by teachers and students.
Educators make decisions how their instructional time is used and when there are disruptions to the planned testing schedule, the tests have to be administered at a later time. "Time is the most valuable thing they have with each other," Nielsen said of the interactions between students and their teachers.
Teachers' concerns "are genuine and we honor that. We work really hard to minimize those kind of impacts on them and their classrooms," he said.
The window for this round of RISE testing is March 19 through June 17, with the latter to accommodate schools on year-round schedules.
"I expect the most intense testing to be the first, second and third weeks of May, meaning the highest volume," Nielsen said7 comments on this story
Nearly 20 percent of RISE testing for this window has been completed, he said.
As of as of Thursday, more than 185,000 tests had been completed and submitted for scoring. Nearly one million tests will be taken over the testing period.
"Obviously, yesterday's event causes us to question some things. We will continue to work with our vendor to make sure we have a reliable assessment system that truly measures what our students know and can do on our core standards and that that data can be used with confidence for the purpose that we collect it," Nielsen said.