Melissa Ramsey didn’t need a memo from the Florida Department of Education last Tuesday to know something was wrong.
On a day of Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) online testing, students and teachers were left without a connection.
The district’s IT folks dove in and performed troubleshooting, but before 8 a.m. ET it was clear that testing was not going to off as planned.
Ramsey, the district’s supervisor for testing, called it a day and instructed teachers to send their students back to class.
Before students even arrived for school in Wewahitchka, Ramsey had notified the schools on the north end that testing would take place that day.
“We called and told them not to even try,” Ramsey said.
By 10 a.m. ET the FDOE sent an email blast alerting districts to a problem and suggesting a delay in testing.
Scheduled for Tuesday was testing for Grade 5 math and reading in Grades 8 and 10.
The Grade 10 reading is particularly important as students must pass that test to graduate high school.
But a problem at Pearson, the company contracted to provide testing services to Florida, caused some districts to be unable to log into the company’s system.
This is the second school year in which online testing has been performed to significant sections of the FCAT.
The problem was not statewide – Franklin County schools proceeded with testing without incident – but did not sit well with Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart who called the problem “unacceptable.”
For Gulf District Schools the snafu meant taking full advantage of the flexible schedule put in place for FCAT testing, particularly since portions of the test have moved online.
“We have to be so flexible,” Ramsey said, noting that with computer testing the testing must be performed within a “window” of time, not a specific day. “We were able to shift everything one day.”
Students who were to take Session 1 of the reading FCAT on Tuesday and the second session the following day instead took Session 1 on Wednesday and completed the second session on Thursday.
Friday is reserved each week for makeups, providing a built-in day for flexibility of scheduling in the event of problems.
“You just have to shift,” Ramsey said. “The state is more flexible and we were flexible.”
And while some students were flustered by preparing for testing and then having to take pause, Ramsey said the stress were likely higher for those not actually taking any tests.
“I would say it was probably a more stressful day for the adults than it was for the students,” Ramsey said.
Testing was back on schedule by the end of the week.