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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Not all computer systems handle state testing, Florida education department warns



As Florida's school districts "load test" their computer systems for 2016 Florida Standards Assessments, their superintendents got a reminder that not every operating system will be able to run the annual tests.

The message, first delivered in August and revised in January, became necessary after Department of Education officials learned that some districts have installed systems that testing vendor AIR cannot yet support, department spokeswoman Meghan Collins said.

While AIR has worked to provide a secure browser for updated systems, it can't handle all of them, chancellor Hershel Lyons advised superintendents Tuesday in a memo

"In order to thoroughly vet each new system, AIR must ensure that the secure browser performs correctly and no functionality or security problems are found. If problems are found, AIR must work with vendors to employ modifications to fix any identified bugs," Lyons wrote. "If this process is to be thorough, you can understand why it is not immediate, as well as why new versions may not be used for student testing until they are approved by our vendor."

The primary issue appears to center on districts' use of Google Chromebooks with operating system 47 or 48. These cannot run the FSA's, Lyons told district leaders, because of glitches that include:

• Text-to-speech does not work (cannot hear text read aloud).
• Text-to-speech tracking is not synched with the audio.
• Drop-down menus are detached when selected.
• Pages may fail to load, particularly on very slow networks or during network interruptions. This may require a reboot to correct.
• The highlight feature does not work properly.

He provided links to websites detailing how to roll back to earlier versions of the Chrome operating system. District also have the option of waiting to revert, in hopes that Google will fix the problems.

To get a handle on how many districts this issue affects, Lyons asked every district to submit a short form detailing their use of Google Chromebooks and the Chrome operating system. The Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando school districts told the Gradebook they do not use the Google hardware or software, and their computer systems meet the state testing requirements.

State testing resumes Feb. 29. State and district officials are hoping to avoid the problems that plagued the administration a year ago.

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2016 1:43pm]


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