St. Johns County superintendent cancels district final exams

Decision comes after issues with computer-based tests

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – District final exams have been canceled after technical difficulties were experienced this week during testing, according to the St. Johns County School District. 

Superintendent Tim Forson wrote in a message sent Thursday to parents and staff that he made the decision to cancel district final exams next week and void any tests already taken this week because of significant issues with the administration of the computer-based tests.

"I am thankful for our district staff that have worked many hours into the evening trying to resolve the issues we have observed. I am also appreciative of the patience of school staff and students as we have worked diligently to improve the performance of the computer-based testing system," the message reads, in part. "Ultimately, I felt we needed to cancel the district computer-based and paper-based exams to remove the frustration of inconsistent test administration and protect instructional time."

He added his decision does not include iReady testing.

School district spokeswoman Christina Langston told News4Jax technical difficulties, which were internal to the district's system, were experienced this week. Though she could not go into details, she said there was a multitude of problems -- an example being the system rebooting multiple times in the middle of students taking tests, which she said can negatively impact a student’s psychological state while taking a test. Langston said even more stress would have been put on the system if tests continued to be taken. 

According to the district, high schools and middle schools will be affected the most. Testing started Monday and was scheduled to continue next week. Each school creates its own testing schedule, so some may have completed more testing already than others. Any tests taken by computer or hand this week will be voided and all of next week's tests are canceled. 

The exams would have counted for 10% of students’ final semester grades. While some students were thrilled by the news, others may be bummed if they were hoping their exam may boost their grade. According to the superintendent, the second semester grading scale will be adjusted so that the lack of a final exam will not penalize a student.

"We will also adjust the student performance element of the teacher evaluation in a fair and equitable manner," Forson said.

Ponte Vedra High School sophomore Marcos Jones said he’s not concerned about his grades because of the cancellation of exams.

"I trust my school," he said. "They’re going to hold it down. They got us. They have our best interest in mind."

Denise Velasquez, his mother, said she was a bit caught off guard by the news and hopes to learn more soon.

"I’m wondering why this happened," she said. "That’s the problem."

Like Jones, Chris Allmon’s son was also happy, but he hopes no students are negatively impacted by the decision to cancel district final exams.

"I can certainly see where some students may have been trying to rely on their final to pull up their final grade in the class," Allmon said.

Forson said they will let students and their families know as soon as a revised grading plan is finalized.

In the meantime, according to Langston, the school district's information technology department will continue to work to try and assess the issues. 

Forson said students also need the opportunity to continue to learn each day ahead of upcoming assessments, including the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), state End Of Course (EOC) exams and several other secondary exams such as AP, AICE, IB and Industry Certification. He said those assessments are not done on the same testing platform as the district exams.