Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Education

Pasco schools hit second FCAT snag this week

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools suspended FCAT computerized testing Thursday morning for the second time this week.

This time, the problem was local.

"We are experiencing Internet connectivity issues," assessment director Peggy Jones told school leaders in an email just after 10 a.m. "At this time, suspend testing for the remainder of the day."

District officials had the situation fixed just before 1 p.m., and schools were told they could resume testing if time permitted.

Most elementary schools begin their day at 9:40 a.m., so many of them would not have started testing yet. Middle and high schools start earlier and would have been in the middle of the exams.

Many high schools also have afternoon testing sessions, in addition to the morning round.

The Florida Department of Education gave the district permission for students to return to class even if they had seen some of the FCAT content and pick up where they left off after the issues were resolved.

"We do have permission to extend the testing window, as needed, to allow sufficient time for students to be tested given the circumstances of the week," Jones told principals in a second email just before noon.

Education Department spokesman Joe Follick said the state's FCAT team was meeting and there were "no issues we've heard of" on a statewide level.

That's different from Tuesday, when computerized testing problems plagued 26 school districts across Florida. Education commissioner Pam Stewart blamed the testing provider, Pearson Education, for server troubles that left thousands of students unable to log into the system, or once in, struggling to submit answers.

That situation was resolved for the following day and testing went on unhindered.

The string of disruptions left some Pasco officials with concerns over the impact on outcomes, which can affect student course assignments and teacher evaluations.

"These are high stakes," Pasco district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. "If we can't have reliable service, it puts in question the reliability of the results."

The Florida House and Senate continue to debate bills that require school districts to create and implement technology improvement plans. The sides remain separate in budget negotiations over how much money to put toward technology as schools are required to move to digital assessments and materials.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

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