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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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More problems for computer-based FCAT exams at Pasco schools

— Pasco County schools continued to experience issues with computer-based FCAT exams Thursday and testing was temporarily suspended in the morning before principals were notified they could resume testing at 12:36 p.m.

“We are back up and running,” said Linda Cobbe, spokeswoman for the Pasco County school district.

This time the issue appeared to be local to Pasco, according to an email the district sent Thursday morning to principals and assistant principals. On Tuesday, Pasco was one of several districts in the state that had to suspend testing because of widespread problems with servers operated by Pearson Inc., the company that administers FCAT in Florida.

The server glitch earlier this week surfaced immediately because students could not even log into the system to begin testing. This time, some students had already begun the exams when connection issues started happening.

Initially, that meant those students couldn’t return to normal classroom activities as they did Tuesday.

“If you have students who have seen content, do not allow them access to electronics or discuss test content that may have been seen,” the district email said. “At this time, we do not know how long the outage will last. If your schedule is near lunch, you may have the students eat a supervised lunch in the hopes that testing will be able to resume.”

Later in the morning, the Florida Department of Education gave the district permission to allow the students to return to class. The district said the state also gave it permission to extend the testing window, as needed, “to allow sufficient time for students to be tested given the circumstances of the week.

Even after the system was back up, principals were told they could test the students Friday if there wasn’t enough time left in the day to complete the tests Thursday.

FCAT used to be administered solely with pencil and paper, but the state began moving to a computer-based exam three years ago, with different subjects or grade levels phased in each year.

The more widespread computer problems on Tuesday led the Pasco school district and the Florida Education Association, among others, to question whether Florida was moving too fast with computer exams.

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart sent an email to districts Wednesday morning saying the Florida Department of Education worked with Pearson through the night to fix the glitch, and Pearson had added redundancies to the system in an effort to stave off problems.

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