Computer-Based Testing update

UPDATE, April 3, 4:49 p.m.:

Please read the press release from the New York State Department of Education below for the most recent information. Please keep an eye out for more information from your child’s building principal via SchoolMessenger. 


Computer-based testing (CBT) of the state English Language Arts (ELA) tests will resume tomorrow for grades 5 and 8, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced today. The Education Department is staggering CBT 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. Paper-based tests will be made available to all schools that prefer that option.

Questar Assessment, Inc. diagnosed the cause of Tuesday’s testing disruptions and implemented corrective action to address the problems. At Commissioner Elia’s direction, teams from Questar’s parent company ETS and partner Microsoft Professional Services independently reviewed and verified Questar’s diagnosis, analysis and action plan.

“There is no excuse for the difficulties experienced by schools administering computer-based testing,” Commissioner Elia said. “We are holding Questar accountable for its failure to deliver the services required in our contract with them. In the past 30 hours, we have worked diligently to fix the system so we can provide a successful experience for all users. Based on evaluations and assurances by ETS and Microsoft, we are confident testing can resume tomorrow without the issues experienced earlier this week. We thank our districts and schools for their incredible support and patience as we work to implement computer-based testing.”

Diagnosis of Cause of Testing Difficulty & Corrective Action

According to Questar, and confirmed by representatives of ETS and Microsoft, Questar’s database servers ran out of free memory due to a high frequency of transactions occurring on the servers which ultimately caused Tuesday’s testing disruptions. 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.

To resolve the issues identified, Questar worked around the clock to take corrective measures to increase the functionality of the system and allow the system to accommodate the anticipated high volume of users. Teams of software engineers from Questar, ETS and Microsoft Professional Services reviewed and confirmed the diagnosis and action plan.

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.

Testing Going Forward

All schools may resume computer-based testing tomorrow and continue testing Friday for grades 5 and 8. 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. Questar and the Department are working with schools to process the completed but not yet submitted tests for the remaining students. No students will be asked to retake testing sessions.