Computer glitch causes FCAT problems in Pasco, Hernando and elsewhere

04/22/14 Seán Kinane
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Tags: FCAT, FEA, unions

photo by Janelle Irwin

Many kids in Florida, including in the Tampa Bay area, had trouble taking the state’s standardized test today because of a computer glitch.

Students in Pasco and Hernando Counties were unable to access the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT.

Andy Ford is president of the Florida Education Association, the union for public school employees.

"In many cases today when the kids got to their classrooms and tried to get on the computer to take their FCAT the system crashed and would not allow them to do it. It takes a lot of time to create the right environment for kids to be able to take a test. So the teachers got the kids in the room, got them all calmed down, got them into the right frame of mind, and then when they went to take the test the system didn't work. It is absolutely ridiculous. A lot of things ride on these tests like the kids promotion in some grades, school grades, the teachers evaluations and we just can't get it right. The state needs to slow down and that's what this legislation has been all about for us is trying to get the legislature to understand that the system is not ready to do what we're trying to have implemented here and we need to slow down and get it right. We're getting ready to go to a new test, what's going to happen next year when all these kids try to take these tests for the first time? The legislature's only willing to give us a one year breather on school grades? That's it? We're asking for three years on the promotion, on the teacher evaluation, on teacher's salaries. All the decisions that get made on the FCAT, we need to slow it down."

You said that they sat down to a computer now years ago they would be getting out their number 2 pencils, what happened to that?

"The state keeps moving towards technology, which is not a bad thing if the schools had the infrastructure to be able to make it work. Even on a good day when the system is up and running, you don't have enough computers in the schools, the bandwidth isn't sufficient in order to take the load of what's going on when we have this massive testing that's going on this last week and this week."

What's the role of the company, Pearson, in administering these tests?

"Pearson has, from the press release I saw earlier today, just says it was one of their carriers that provides the internet service that had a malfunction. So they're not taking much responsibility from what I could gather from their press release earlier today."

We've heard about issues in, I think, Seminole County, in Pasco and Hernando Counties. Can you give us an idea of the scale of where this was happening?

"We know for sure it was Leon, Pasco, Hernando, Seminole, and Brevard. We've heard there were others but I can't remember off the top of my head."

In an email to superintendents, the Florida Department of Education said the issue did not appear to be statewide.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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