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Utah Knew Of RISE Testing Contractor Problems

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah officials knew it’s preferred standardized testing contractor had issues in other states, but that did not disqualify the company from winning a 10-year $44-million contract to run the RISE test.

A KSL Investigation has found Questar and its parent company ETS have had issues in several states for years running online standardized testing programs.

18,429 students had problems taking their tests online starting in late April of this year, KSL learned.

“We’ve got students who are finishing segment one of the test and they’re trying to submit and it says its locked,” said one teacher in April.

The number of students affected has likely grown with RISE glitches occurring on five different days so far.

“This new test doesn’t seem to be working,” said Granite Education Association President Michael McDonough.

Utah isn’t alone.

KSL found a few weeks before Utah’s problems started, similar issued occurred in New York. 6,600 students couldn’t submit tests. The state said Questar’s servers ran out of memory.

Problems also plagued Questar for years in Tennessee.

“There’s zero trust from educators, students, and parents alike,” said Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown.

“Is it prudent for us to continue with this vendor going forward?” asked Tennessee State Representative Craig Fitzhugh (D), at a legislative panel in 2018.

And in Texas, Questar’s parent company ETS also suffered years of problems, losing answers, server issues, and computer glitches. Texas fined the company $5.7 million and demanded $15 million in fixes. Utah knew this before it awarded the contract to Questar.

But according to Utah State Board of Education Deputy Superintendent Scott Jones, “By all indications everything had been resolved.”

His staff is now figuring out whether Questar will have to pay up for the problems here in Utah.

“It could result in the termination of a contract, or at the very least, we recoup the taxpayers money,” said Jones.

The state can charge Questar up to $50,000 per day for testing outages. Jones said the state built that into the contract in case other states’ problems surfaced here.

“We’re mitigating against risks that we’ve seen or observed in other states,” said Jones.

Questar’s CEO will meet with the State Board of Education on Thursday. The company sent us this statement about the testing problems:

“Questar Assessment Inc. understands the state’s frustration with the administration of the RISE assessments. We are committed to working with a third party evaluator in an effort to determine the impact of systems issues and ensure the validity of Utah data. We remain dedicated to the students, teachers and school districts of Utah, and we take our responsibility to provide accurate and insightful testing results seriously.”

 

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