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Digital ELA tests to be given through April 12

The state Education Department extended the time frame for districts to administer the computer-based exams after technical troubles caused a halt this week. Testing resumed Thursday. 

Lisa Mato, the Longwood district's director of special

Lisa Mato, the Longwood district's director of special programs and data reporting, said the school system did not experience any problems with the computer-based English Language Arts test on Thursday. She is shown in Charles E. Walters Elementary School in Yaphank on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

New York State's computer-based testing of elementary and middle school students, suspended a portion of this week because of technical breakdowns, will be extended through April 12, Education Department officials announced Thursday.

The digital tests resumed Thursday morning, were given to nearly 73,000 students statewide, and went well, Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a statement.

The state on Tuesday halted administration of the computer-based tests, or CBTs, and put them on hold all day Wednesday, affecting the exam dates of thousands of students across the state.

Elia voiced regret for "hardship" experienced by school communities as a result of the technical disruptions. She pledged that no school would be unfairly penalized for participating voluntarily in computer-based testing — a program the state launched in 2017. 

"As a former school and district leader, I know the logistical burdens these shifts have caused, and I share your frustration," the commissioner said.

More than 1 million students statewide in grades three though eight take the federally required English Language Arts exams each year. Testing began Monday, with the great majority of districts sticking with the paper-and-pencil versions. However, participation in digital tests is way up in numbers this year, both on Long Island and across the state.

Originally, the computer-based tests were scheduled to run from Monday through April 8, with each participating district allotting two consecutive days for the exams. A single day's testing typically takes about 90 minutes to complete, local administrators said. 

In addition, the state had scheduled makeup days for CBTs from Thursday through April 11, for students who missed initial exams because of illness or other reasons.

On Tuesday, the state Education Department suddenly declared a stop on the digital tests after reports of trouble: Students had encountered long delays logging into the system or couldn't at all, and exams sometimes could not be finished or submitted upon completion. That afternoon, the agency announced the tests would be suspended the following day, because database servers operated by Questar Assessment Inc., a Minneapolis-based contractor, had broken down under heavy usage. 

Elia initially announced that computer-based testing would resume Thursday, but only for limited numbers of students. Her latest directive allows full testing and extends the window for participation through April 12.

On the Island, local school administrators in districts giving the digital tests Thursday expressed relief that the day's exercise went smoothly. 

"I'm satisfied with the CBT testing results today," said Lisa Mato, director of special programs and data reporting for the Longwood district in central Brookhaven Town. "We did not encounter any delays in startups or submissions."

Mato added that about 700 Longwood students in grades three, five and seven completed exams Thursday. The district's students in grades four, six and eight are scheduled for testing Friday and Monday, along with some third-graders who were unable to start on Tuesday. 

Longwood was among a few Island districts that chose to give all students the computer-based test this season, both for the ELA and math.

The paper-based English test was given statewide Tuesday through Thursday, on two consecutive days of districts' choosing.

Computer-based math tests are scheduled to be given from April 30 through May 7, and paper-based exams from May 1 through May 3. For each type of exam, districts again choose two consecutive days within those time frames for testing.

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