A parent group is calling for a moratorium on standardized tests until problems plaguing test-takers in December and March are resolved.

"The current standardized testing system has so many faults that it cannot be remedied at this time,” Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment said in a May 5, 2016, statement, adding that Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency haven’t done enough to fix testing problems.

In March, thousands of students in grades 5 and 8 taking State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams in math and reading reported problems with computer-based tests, such as students being logged out without having answers saved or being given wrong forms of the exam. Students in grades 4 and 7 also had similar trouble with electronic versions of the STAAR writing exams.

In April, Morath called the STAAR problems “unfortunate” and said affected students wouldn’t be required to retake the exams, but that pledge wasn’t enough for TAMSA or for a number of superintendents in districts that have experienced major problems with STAAR testing.

In an April 12 letter, superintendents from 50 districts in Harris, Liberty, Chambers, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Waller and Galveston counties sent Morath a letter, calling on TEA to resolve problems and exempt the exams from accountability standards, providing a six-page list of concerns from the March STAAR administration ranging from mis-delivered testing materials to inaccurate student data. “Our campuses experienced numerous issues with the shipping and receiving of materials, online testing for STAAR A, and coding issues with the pre-coded documents. Also, for the first time, we received information on test day that students were to leave item #61 on the English I EOC blank because the item did not have a correct answer. This immediately created confusion because some students had already chosen and marked the answer document. Teachers and students are concerned that all students may not be treated fairly since some students marked an answer and some did not.”

The superintendents also said, “Because of the issues surrounding these tests, we recommend that including STAAR A in the accountability ratings should be postponed for one more year to ensure that test issues/concerns have been resolved before students, campuses, and districts are held accountable.”

In a letter responding to the superintendents, Morath defended the end-of-course results, saying the "scores generated by the raters meet the same standards for accuracy and reliability as past administrations," and adding, "there is no reason to assume that December hand-scoring yielded incorrect results."

Morath went on to explain how TEA and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) work to ensure consistency and fairness on open-ended test questions. Morath also said he wants to be transparent and open in showing educators the process for scoring constructed responses, providing “every district the opportunity to come to Austin to view their students’ responses to the short answer items so districts can see the quality of the process.” In addition, TEA said Education Testing Services would waive all rescore fees for requests submitted before April 22, 2016.

TEA maintains most tests were scored correctly. “For rescore requests processed to date, the overwhelming majority of initial scores were confirmed. As of April 21, 2016, TEA has received requests to rescore 5,896 short answer constructed responses from 3,260 students; 92.5% were confirmed. Of the remaining 444 responses, 306 went up and 138 went down. This difference is not surprising given that the vast majority of the rescore requests involved zero scores, which could not go down. Note that a change in a score assigned to one or even more constructed responses does not necessarily mean that a student’s passing status will be affected. Of the 3,260 students for whom rescores were requested, 130 resulted in a student moving from fail to pass.”

Though Morath defended the scoring system and pledged to work with ETS on the STAAR computer glitches, in another letter dated April 29, 2016, he said affected districts would not be penalized in state accountability ratings or performance-based monitoring. "The test results of the affected students (grades 5 and 8 reading and mathematics; grades 4 and 7 writing; and the English I and English II EOCs) will be excluded from all index calculations," Morath said.

But for TAMSA, that action is not enough. "The state mindset about testing must change, only then can we make real progress," the group's president said.