With Scapegoat On Board, FSA Testing Continues to Collapse Across the State


As the school day arrived a faceless corporate scapegoat emerged to take the blame for the previous day’s FSA testing collapse. Gradebook‘s Jeffrey Solochek reports:

AIR Assessment, the organization delivering the tests for Florida, accepts full responsibility for the difficulty,” the organization said. “We updated student data, which was not immediately available to the testing servers. When students logged onto the test, the servers were forced to reach out to other databases to get the necessary student information.”

“This substantially degraded performance,” the AIR added. “This data is now available to the testing servers, so the problem should not recur.”

Solochek noted that it was curious the statement didn’t make its way to the Florida media and cited Education Week as his source. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart gave the all-clear in a memo to superintendent.

The department worked with AIR throughout the day and into the evening yesterday to better understand the issues that affected online testing in Florida on Monday. AIR has determined that a software issue caused log-in issues, including delays and error messages for a number of districts. AIR reports that of the 69,177 tests that were started yesterday, 67,745 were successfully completed.

AIR and its hosting provider, Rackspace, have worked to ensure that service is restored to the servers that support the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Last night, AIR conducted an additional load test on the hardware that supports FSA and it showed improved performance after the software changes. AIR will continue to monitor server performance throughout the entire FSA testing window.

Districts may begin or resume testing as soon as they desire, and additional guidance will be provided to assessment coordinators shortly.

At the end of the day, Stewart toned down her expectations:

We had approximately 68,000 students complete the test yesterday and more than 85,000 students completed the test today, for a total of over 150,000 (updated since our 5 p.m. call). This represents 23 percent of the students registered to take the computer-based writing component.

The primary cause for the difficulties centers around a software issue on the login server. I assure you we are working with AIR around the clock to resolve reported technical difficulties. AIR has taken full responsibility for the issues and has dedicated all available resources to fixing the problem.

As I indicated in my email this morning, AIR made improvements last night and we saw some progress. Additional changes were made this afternoon, which resulted in a significant increase in performance. However, AIR continues to work to develop enhancements that will further reduce the likelihood of issues moving forward. We will have more information tomorrow after further testing of the system overnight. While we cannot guarantee that some users will not encounter similar issues tomorrow, I also do not want to prevent any districts who have had success from continuing their testing tomorrow

Far too many superintendents of big school districts aren’t buying what Stewart is selling, with Miami-Dade, Leon and Broward still refusing. And the reality of the total number of failures disagrees with Stewart’s rosy numbers

Throughout the day, multiple reports of problems emerged.  In Duval, St. Johns and Clay counties here. Escambia was forced to suspend testing yesterday. Testing was suspended in Volusia and Marion districts. Students lost their essays in Osceola. Lee county schools reported problems that other districts were reporting. Polk schools suspended testing, too.

Damage has already been done as Miami Dade superintendent Alberto Caravahlo told the Miami Herald:

“How is the state going to deal with this massive, massive potential breach of test security, that certainly, at the very least, breaches the equity of testing conditions for students?” he asked. “We have not received that information.”

Governor Rick Scott failed to mention the testing meltdowns in his state-of-the-state speech yesterday.



About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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