Polk High school and middle schoolers were frustrated this week when the planned FCAT was stymied by a computer glitch which delayed testing for some for several days.
The glitch, according to the district’s computer system guru, Assistant Superintendent Abdu Taguri, was with servers outside the control of the districts. He also said the state Department of Education was investigating how the test operations had failed.
Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy told the school board at last Tuesday’s work session she was concerned about the impact on school grades.
“I’m concerned how will they guarantee the scores are calculated and counted accurately,” she said.
The school grades can directly impact both teachers and students since teacher ratings are tied to the scores and students, especially high school students, can see their promotions affected if they do not post passing grades.
Locally, Fort Meade Middle Senior High School Principal Amy Hardee said they did have one glitch, but that overall the school “was not seriously affected.”
She said when the sixth graders tried to log on for their math FCAT, “they were kicked off the site and we had to reset their test.”
She said the solution was to not have all the sixth graders sign in at once, which, with some quick thinking, might have actually been a benefit.
“We realized that we needed to stagger the students as they logged onto the Pearson site,” she said. “The delay caused us to redesign our lunch plans for the students. Reflecting back upon the day, the delay was a happy problem because the students were able to eat between the two 70-minute testing sessions They received a break from testing and their stomachs were not growling during the exam.”
LeRoy and Taguri both said they would check the state’s database to see that every Polk County student is properly assessed and graded.
The glitch, which meant a delay in testing for some county students that could push their FCATs into this week, was tied to off-site servers used by Pearson, the company that administers and scores the tests statewide.
Polk wasn’t the only county affected. According to the DOE, more than 25 other districts also were impacted.
Meanwhile, parents received an email from LeRoy explaining the problem, and advised they would be kept informed of developments.
Early Thursday, the district reported that the problem had been solved, but had not said whether any tests were delayed until next week.
The computer snafu affected sixth through 10th grade reading tests and some students had already taken the test before the computer system went haywire. Some students had already completed the tests before the snarl-up at about 9:30 a.m.
The glitch was reported after a second sitting of students had started the test, but were unable to complete it due to the server problem. Students who couldn’t finish the test were sent back to classrooms to resume their scheduled classes, LeRoy told the school board.
Evidently, the computer hang-up was cleared up quickly and testing resumed on Wednesday, but some schools still have yet to take the FCAT. The testing is scheduled by each school and, according to school officials, the lower grades have until Friday to complete the test, while high schools have until May 6.
Florida has been transitioning toward computer-based testing over the last several years, and state education officials are scheduled to implement a new exam from the American Institutes of Research in 2015.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)