High-stakes testing continues despite persistent technical problems

After getting off to a slow start, South Florida schools finally moved forward with high-stakes student assessment tests on Thursday.

Computer-based testing resumed in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties after it was postponed for three days while the state worked out technical problems.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has repeatedly assured that the glitches — largely blamed on test provider American Institutes for Research — have been fixed.

But students attempting to take the writing portion of the Florida Standards Assessment on Thursday did a lot of waiting around. It took 30 to 45 minutes for some kids to log into the system.

“The party line from the Department of Education is ‘persistence,’ to be persistent,” said Miami-Dade’s Chief Academic Officer Marie Izquierdo.

When students were finally able to get in, many saw blank white screens. Izquierdo said districts across the state experienced the same glitch. After some fixes by the test provider, things ran more smoothly.

But, she said, “It hasn’t been optimal.”

Duval County, which encompasses Jacksonville, suspended testing for the second time in a week because of the problems, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Miami-Dade and other school districts suspended the new tests shortly after they started on Monday. Schools across the state had trouble logging in, the system ran painfully slow and students were booted off while taking the test.

In a statement, Stewart said AIR has been able to retrieve test responses that had disappeared after students got kicked off the system. A hotline has been established to report missing tests, which the state said will take 24 - 48 hours to restore.

“AIR has had success retrieving responses and AIR leadership has assured me they are confident the remainder of these responses will be retrieved,” Stewart wrote.

According to the Department of Education, 50 percent of students scheduled to take the computer-based test have completed it.

Kids are required to pass the test to be promoted or graduate. The exams haven’t been field-tested, prompting complaints from educators, parents and students that the state is moving too quickly with the brand new tests.

Only eighth- and ninth-grade students were scheduled to take the test in Miami-Dade on Thursday. Tenth-grade students will begin taking the test in Miami-Dade on Friday. The district had held off on testing them in light of the technical woes.

Students in grades four through seven take the test on paper.

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