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Online Testing Rolls Forward in Florida Districts, After Delays

A number of Florida districts that had suspended online testing in the wake of sporadic breakdowns will begin giving the exams again, and the state's commissioner of education reported Wednesday that the administration of assessments was going smoothy.

Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart told a legislative panel that as of early today, state officials were "seeing the assessment respond as it is intended to respond," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Stewart blamed a software update of the testing system as the culprit, a change she said resulted in the system not being able to keep up when schools began testing. She noted that the state's testing vendor, the American Institutes of Research, which is working on a multi-year, $220 million contract, had accepted blame for the derailments for the online exams, which cover writing in grades 8-10.

Officials in the Broward County school system said that based on state assurances that the storm had passed, they were resuming online testing on Thursday, after having suspended testing on Wednesday. The neighboring Palm Beach County system said it was doing the same. The Miami-Dade district will resume testing on Thursday for grades 8 and 9, and if all goes smoothly, begin testing in grade 10, said spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego by e-mail.

The Hillsborough County school system had disruptions in a relatively small number of schools on both Monday and Tuesday, and the situation was "much better" on Wednesday, district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said in an interview.

Even if the problems weren't widespread, they served to frustrate school officials and students, Hegarty noted. He pointed to a school in the district that tested 300 or so students on Tuesday. Most test-takers made it through the online exam without any trouble. But about 20 students made it three-fourths of the way through the test, only to have the systems freeze up, or otherwise lock them out.

"Tuesday was a rough day," he said.

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