Tennessee students struggled to test online again on Monday, with an array of headaches from start to finish while taking the state’s standardized test during its third week.
The problems included login issues, screens going blank, and trouble submitting their exams. There also were reports of students getting booted off the platform in the middle of their TNReady test.
Districts were told late in the day that the culprit was traced to a feature allowing text to be turned into speech for students needing audible commands.
“The problems presented by this feature impact the system for districts across the state, regardless of how many of your students are using text-to-speech,” said an email to superintendents from the state Department of Education.
Plans were to turn the feature off on Tuesday so that Questar, the state’s testing company, could look further into the problem.
The glitches occurred in districts across the state, prompting some to suspend testing and others to leave the decision up to individual principals.
The superintendent for Williamson County Schools, Dr. Mike Looney, lashed out on Twitter (@wcsDirofSchools) over another day of testing and instruction lost to technical problems. He wrote: “Testing Update: TNReady testing challenges persist this morning. This has been the worst state testing process I have ever seen and it’s beyond ridiculous! Nevertheless, I am proud of WCS students and teachers for handling this with grace.”
The issues were the latest in a string of technical problems that began on the very first day of TNReady testing on April 16. The causes have ranged from a reported cyber attack to a severed fiber optic cable. And late last week, state officials confirmed that about 1,800 exams had to be invalidated after some students were administered the wrong grade level of TNReady online.
Despite the frequent interruptions, state education officials have pushed forward to complete the exams by next week and say this year’s TNReady is two-thirds of the way finished.
Last week, state lawmakers passed two pieces of legislation designed to keep this year’s scores from counting against students, teachers, schools, and districts.
Educators and legislators have expressed widespread concern about the reliability of the results, especially for older students taking them online. However, Elizabeth Fiveash, an assistant commissioner over policy and legislative affairs, told lawmakers last week that no evidence thus far indicates that the results will be unreliable. She also promised that the department will examine the issue further.