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Technical Glitch Forces NYS To Postpone ELA Computer-Based Testing

SYOSSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Computer-based testing will resume Thursday in elementary and middle schools across New York state after technical problems shut down the system on Tuesday.

The state blames the problem on "memory overload." The flawed rollout is another strike against already unpopular school assessments, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Paper and pencil is old school. The computer-based version of the English Language Arts assessment is supposed to be the future. But schools volunteering to be among the first in New York call the rollout a mess.

A litany of technical glitches forced the state to suspended testing Wednesday in grades 3-8.

(Photo: CBS2)

"Children are putting data and answering the questions on the computers and then the computers are freezing and then the children are crying or are upset," parent advocate Tory Vine said.

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Some students couldn't even log on for over an hour, or complete the entire test. Then, results were lost.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Wednesday the system has been fixed. The problem stemmed from having too many users at one time. Testing will resume Thursday for grades 5-8.

But now Questar Assessment, the vendor, has explaining to do.

"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 White Plains, School Superintendent Joseph Ricca said the disruption further erodes trust in the state testing system.

"Folks are working hard, getting ready for these assessments, and when they roll out and don't work it creates a lot of apprehension, additional stress and doesn't put a lot of confidence in the process," Ricca said.

The digital version of assessments is supposed to reduce test time and improve accuracy, but now even supporters have doubts.

"Given the experiences of this year and some problems last year, we have come to doubt whether the path we are on now will ever lead to where we hope to get," said Bob Lowry, director of the New York Council of School Superintendents.

"If you're going to assess our children, you have to get your act together," Vine added.

In Syosset, the school superintendent is essentially asking the state to throw out the test for children who had to endure the technical glitches, adding they should not be required to take the test again.

Commissioner Elia said no students will be asked to retake the test. Schools that wish to return to a paper test will be allowed to do so.

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