A computer glitch interrupted FCAT testing for some Pasco County students over the last three weeks, but just what caused the problem is still a mystery.
“We can’t determine any rhyme or reason to why it’s happening,” said Peggy Jones, the district’s director of research and evaluation.
Land O’ Lakes High and Hudson High reported the biggest problems, although even at those schools just a small percentage of students were affected, district officials said.
At Land O’ Lakes, 14 10th-grade students were knocked off the online testing software while taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test 2.0 reading exam last week. They were sequestered in the school media center until the problem was resolved and they could log back on and resume the testing.
A similar number of students encountered the problem at Hudson High two weeks ago while they took an FCAT reading re-take exam. A few other students scattered around the county also have experienced problems.
A representative from Pearson Inc., the company that provides the software, came to Pasco to try to help district officials figure out what’s behind the glitch, but no immediate solutions were found. The district’s hardware seemed fine, officials said.
The problem wasn’t widespread, Jones said, but she acknowledged the interruption could add to the frustration of students already stressed about taking the exams.
“What we would like to see is it not happen to anyone,” she said.
The problem appears almost random. It didn’t occur at every school and it didn’t happen to every student even in the same classroom.
“The only consistent thing is it’s inconsistent,” said Mark Butler, a supervisor in research and evaluation.
At Land O’ Lakes High, about 100 students took the exam without issues at the same time as the 14 who were bumped off the system. The remaining 300 10th-graders at the school later took the exam, also without problems.
“We haven’t had those issues at that same school this week,” said Jay Feliciani, a supervisor of instructional media and technology services.
Students who encounter problems eventually are able to resume the test where they left off. They are given the full amount of time designated for completing the test.
Pasco isn’t the only county that had difficulties.
The K-12 Assessment Office and Pearson Support also received reports from other school districts about isolated technical issues encountered by schools and students, said Sheila Griffin, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Education.
In each instance, DOE and Pearson worked with the district and school staff to resolve the issue and resume testing, Griffin said.
If there is ever a case where a technical issue cannot be resolved, the state works with the district to determine a solution that ensures all students are tested successfully, she said.
The state began moving to computer-based FCAT two years ago, with different subjects or grade levels phased in each year.
This year, the reading exams for sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th-grade students are computer-based, as are reading re-take and math re-take exams. In addition, fifth-grade math was added for the first time this year.
Next year, sixth-grade math and eighth-grade reading are scheduled to move from paper to computer.
State-required end-of-course exams for Algebra I, Biology I, geometry and U.S. history also are computer-based.