Glitches disrupt online state testing for students in Tacoma

Staff writerMay 1, 2014 

Computer problems shut down online state testing for some students in Tacoma on Wednesday, but technicians were able to resolve issues and testing resumed Thursday.

“Everything went smoothly,” on Thursday, said Patrick Cummings, director of research and evaluation for the school district. “But it was a rough start.”

Michael Farmer, director of instructional technology in Tacoma, described the problem as a “connection issue.”

Some Tacoma students were able to log on and begin answering questions, then were stopped mid-test, Farmer said. Others were unable to log on at all. Still others were able to complete the test, but were unable to submit their answers online.

Similar problems plagued schools Wednesday in Vancouver, Washington, according to state officials.

Technology coordinators for both school districts worked with technicians from Data Recognition Corp. of Minnesota to get the testing system up and running again. The private company provides online testing for Washington and 14 other states.

Company representatives could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The official state explanation was that the district needed to repackage its server and update firewall and network applications.

The testing involved is for students in grades three through eight, who take the test known as the MSP (Measurements of Student Progress).

Schools giving the MSP online have a testing window that opened April 23 and will not close until June 6, so Tacoma officials say schools will have plenty of time to make up for the lost time.

Farmer said problems varied from school to school. Only about a fourth of the 46 Tacoma schools that must complete the testing had begun the test on Wednesday. Schools are allowed to set their own testing schedule within the wider testing window.

Farmer said a backup server in Tacoma was able to capture any data input before the crash, so kids who completed a portion of the test were able to pick up where they left off.

Farmer said the system had worked well during a previous test run.

Tacoma has been using online systems for state tests for at least five years.

“This is the first year we had any kind of widespread problems,” Farmer said.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

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