UPDATE: TN Ready testing vendor Questar releases statement after multi-state issues

UPDATE: Questar Assessment, Inc. offered a response to December audit of the TNReady testing issues which included login delays, slow servers and software bugs.

Those problems prompted an audit by the state that held both the Department of Education and the vendor, Questar, accountable for the lack of monitoring and delays for students signing in to take the tests.

Those delays in 2018 forced delays for many districts, "which had to reschedule tests when the platform did not work as intended," according to the audit.

Questar responded to the audit:

“We understand the frustration with TNReady testing last spring,” says Questar Assessment Chief Operating Officer Brad Baumgartner. “We have a long history of successfully serving our customers, and we look forward to continuing those partnerships in the future.”

Questar also stated they did not agree with the audit's findings.

“Questar has always held the position that the pattern of data discovered during Spring TNReady administration was consistent with what could have been an attack, but we did not at any time indicate that a cyberattack was certain,” Baumgartner says.

“Because we had never experienced an issue of this magnitude, we had not developed appropriate outbound communication channels that would have better-informed state and district staff. These channels are now in place, thanks to the work of the Tennessee Department of Education and Questar. Our centers will continue to be properly staffed for any additional questions,” Baumgartner says.

Questar also said that fall testing was successfully completed, and they are focused on the production and distribution of reports. Students across Tennessee took more than 72,000 tests, and the Tennessee Department of Education reported a smooth testing experience across all districts.

“We are not standing still. Questar Assessment is committed to continually advancing our processes, technology, and security,” Baumgartner says. “We look forward to serving Tennessee teachers and students this spring with the best testing experience possible.”

PREVIOUS STORY: TNReady testing was plagued with issues earlier this year.

The Tennessee Comptroller's Office has released a new performance audit that looks into the problems experienced this past spring.

Issues included login delays, slow servers and software bugs.

The first issues were reported on April 16 and continued through the remained of the month, according to the TN Comptrollers Office.

"Auditors determined that many of these issues occurred primarily because of Questar Assessment, Inc’s performance and updates to the student assessment system," a Tennessee Comptroller's Office spokesperson said. "Auditors also found the Department of Education’s oversight of test administration fell short of expectations."

Audit findings include:

  • The department’s lack of sufficient, detailed information on its Work Plan with Questar rendered it less effective as a monitoring tool to ensure Questar met all deadlines.
  • Questar’s decision to make an unauthorized change to text-to-speech software without formally notifying the department. This change contributed to the online testing disruptions.
  • Questar’s failure to sufficiently staff customer support, resulting in lengthy call wait times and high rates of abandoned calls.
  • A failure to track, document, and provide status updates to districts to let them know when students’ tests would be recovered, leaving districts unaware if their students completed the required tests.
  • Inadequate evaluation and monitoring of internal controls implemented by external information technology service providers, such as Questar.