- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Testing was suspended Tuesday in several districts across Florida after students were unable to take the state’s standardized assessment because of a computer glitch.

In a letter to the testing contractor, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the glitch had created “significant problems” for students taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and end-of-course assessments.

“This failure is inexcusable,” Stewart wrote to an executive at Pearson, the company that administers and scores the FCAT. “Florida’s students and teachers work too hard on learning to be distracted by these needless and avoidable technological issues.”

Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick said in an email that 26 districts in Florida had reported some disruption to FCAT testing Tuesday. The level of disruption varied among those districts.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesman John Schuster said some students were able to complete their tests but many received an error message when they finished.

“Many more were unable to start testing when they were scheduled,” he added.

The Florida Department of Education blamed Pearson for the glitch, saying the contractor was having difficulty with a hosting provider.

Pearson released a statement saying Florida’s internet traffic disruptions were due to network issue with a third-party hosting service provider, Savvis.

“We are working closely with Savvis to remedy the situation as soon as possible,” the statement said. “Even with the disruption, which did present difficulties for some school districts, many students are testing normally with almost 200,000 tests delivered today.”

Gov. Rick Scott said the Department of Education would hold Pearson accountable.

“Our students have studied hard,” he said. “Their parents have pushed them and helped them study hard. Their teachers have helped them. It’s unacceptable.”

Pasco County Schools spokeswoman Linda Cobb said her district’s biggest concern was the reliability of test results. She said the district would be comparing the results of those who took the test as scheduled and those who could not because of the glitch.

“It just increases our concern about the window we have for transitioning to the new test and all computer-based testing,” she said.

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.

Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the computer glitches “prove yet again that the state is not prepared for such a large undertaking.”

“This should be a teachable moment for The Florida Department of Education as they enter a new era of testing next year: Slow down, make sure every aspect of the testing program works, involve teachers and administrators in this massive undertaking and get it right,” he said.

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