Unauthorized change blamed for FSA testing issues

Problems during March testing blamed on computer attack

Governor Scott is considering changes to the state testing system.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - From Tallahassee to Ft. Myers and Miami to Pensacola, schools all across Florida shut down math and reading testing due to computer problems for the second time in two months. 

The computer system for Florida's new standardized testing crashed statewide Monday, delaying again the administration of the exam taking the place of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. 

"Our students are being used like guinea pigs to go in and take a test, and they are held to the measure that you might not be able to go to the next grade on the basis of one test, and they can't even log in. This is madness. We got to end this," Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons said.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Standards Assessment portal couldn't handle the number of students trying to log on Monday morning. 

AP photo by Lynne Sladky

School officials throughout the state were notified that the testing company's servers were down. Several hours later, students were still unable to log in.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the testing company's president said a technical change was made over the weekend that was not approved by the state education department. That change, which Stewart said was unnecessary, caused the disruption in students being able to log in for the tests.

"We have confirmed that the login issue has been resolved and students are currently testing," Stewart said in a statement. "They had done some upgrading to the servers over the weekend, unauthorized. We didn't know that was happening. And the reason for the upgrade is something that could have waited."

"The company's failure to follow protocol is absolutely unacceptable, and the department will hold AIR accountable for the disruption they have caused to our state's students, teachers and school staff."

AIR recently signed a five-year, $250 million contract to administer the test. 

It's not clear if northeast Florida schools were continuing to test Monday or electing to wait for a make-up test date.

Lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation last week, saying this year's test won't be counted unless its validity is proven by an outside party. Florida teachers say the latest problem is proof enough.

"And they're once again saying, you can't take the test now. You've got to come back in 30 minutes, or you gotta comeback tomorrow. That totally disrupts the process," Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said.

Duval County said the problem affected all high schools and middle schools and 40 elementary schools and hoped that testing would resume Tuesday.

St. Johns County confirmed that fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders had to cancel testing Monday but that some students did complete afternoon testing. 

All counties in the state plan to try again Tuesday for the second day of the reading test.

The issues come a month after public schools across the state delayed online testing among middle and high school students for the same reason.

A week after the initial issues were reported, the Florida Department of Education said the glitches were caused by cyberattacks on a server used to administer the FSA.

Monday's failure gives private public education activists more ammunition in their fight against the state's high-stakes standardized testing.

"It is unacceptable that the state of Florida demands our children be ready for an unreliable, unproven test, yet they cannot even get the state testing portal to work properly," said Colleen Wood, president of 50th No More. "Once again, the school day for Florida's 2.7 million children has been interrupted.  Learning has been delayed for testing that didn't even happen and will have to be pushed back eating up more instructional time later this week."

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, a south Florida Democrat, called it, "Another example of Florida's flawed testing system," and again called for Scott to suspend school grades for the school year.

"An independent review will conclude what many people already know," Bullard said. "This test wasn't ready for prime time, and its roll out was flawed. Our children don't deserve to be penalized for Florida's flawed problems."

News4Jax has crews in Jacksonville and Tallahassee trying to get more information about the testing. This article will be updated as details about the latest problem become available.

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