Utah’s new standardized test malfunctions in first days, affecting Park City students

Treasure Mountain Junior High.
Sydney LaPine/Park Record file photo

After Utah students began taking the state’s new standardized exam RISE last week, a glitch in the software forced thousands of students to stop.

School districts around the state had to cancel testing on two separate days after service interruptions restricted students from submitting their exams. Schools around Summit County were impacted by the technical issues, which were later resolved. Student testing data was recovered.

Drew Frink, director of technology and assessments for the district, said Treasure Mountain Junior High, Trailside Elementary School and McPolin Elementary School were affected by the software issues that took place on Tuesday. Schools in South Summit School District and North Summit School District were also impacted.

Darin Nielsen, assistant superintendent of student learning for the Utah State Board of Education, said the first major interruption took place on April 25. Students who attempted to submit their answers received a pop-up message informing them that their exam could not be submitted. The RISE tests are adaptive, so the accuracy of a student’s answers from one set of questions determines the difficulty level of the next section of questions. Nielsen said the servers that were supposed to score the tests and provide the next section malfunctioned.

The state decided to cancel testing for the rest of the day, and the science portion of the test was suspended until the following week. He said 18,429 students were taking the exam when the state made its decision.

Only a handful of students were testing at Trailside during the first outage, Frink said.

Questar, the vendor that distributes the exams, fixed the issue, but another problem caused similar error messages on Tuesday, Nielsen said. The interruptions on the second day impacted 20,000 students, but Questar was able to resolve the problem after 40 minutes. The state did not cancel testing, but Frink said he and several other assessment directors around the state decided to suspend testing for the rest of the day. He said the entire eighth grade at Treasure Mountain was testing at the time, as well as students at McPolin and Trailside. The schools will now have to reschedule the exams. Marci Sargent, spokesperson for North Summit School District, said the district is aware of seven students who were affected by the problem. South Summit School District had to stop testing on both days, said Jodi Jones, spokesperson for the district.

Summit County districts resumed testing on Wednesday. As of Friday morning, Utah schools had not experienced other major difficulties with the exams.

The state selected Questar as its new testing vendor and the tests RISE and Utah Aspire Plus for the new statewide exams last summer. The exams replaced the controversial SAGE test, which experienced high opt-out rates around the state, and especially in Park City. Students from grades three through eight are given the RISE test, which has similar questions to the SAGE test. Ninth- and 10th-grade students take the Utah Aspire Plus test.

Nielsen said there is a risk of malfunctions whenever schools adopt new testing software. But, he said, it is rare to have an outage that affects the whole state.

Frink, too, said the district was expecting some problems with the software.

Testing around the state is expected to continue until the end of May, but Nielsen said the majority of students will take the test over the next two weeks.


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