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State’s Online Testing System Goes Awry After Computer Server Glitch

On Monday, April 20, a statewide computer server glitch prevented thousands of students from completing their Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) in what was yet another setback for the state’s newly introduced computerized exams.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the testing company, American Institutes for Research, had performed an unauthorized weekend update to the computer system that prevented students from logging in to the system to take their scheduled math and reading exams until about 11 a.m.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told school superintendents that she was “exasperated, frustrated, dismayed (and) angry” at the delay.

“This change was unnecessary to the administration of the Florida Standards Assessment and resulted in a disruption that hindered students from being able to log in to the system and take their test,” Stewart said.

Students in grades five through 10 across Florida had been scheduled to take the state assessment exams Monday. It’s unclear exactly how many students were affected by the update. In Central Florida, some students waited as long as an hour in a computer lab to take their tests before giving up and returning to class. Students in the Lake, Orange and Seminole county school districts were all able to take their exams after initial delays, however.

AIR has since called the incident a result of “human error” and stated it will review its procedures to prevent future mishaps from taking place.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that AIR has a $220 million, six-year contract with the state of Florida to develop and implement the FSA for students in elementary school through high school. If the terms of this contract aren’t met, AIR, which operates within the $14 billion computer server industry, may face financial penalties.

Just last month, technical glitches and a potential cyber attack interrupted students taking the newly implemented FSA writing exam. Monday’s mishap has caused criticism of the computerized testing system to grow even louder.

“Our children deserve better than this,” the Florida PTA said in a statement.

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