Education officials in the state of New Jersey announced that schools will be able to continue administering PARCC exams just one day after computer glitches caused delays at numerous schools throughout the state.
Referring to the shutdown as "totally unacceptable," Education Commissioner David Hespe said he had been assured by Pearson Education, the company that administers test for all states using it, that the necessary steps were being taken to fix the problems.
"I would like to thank all the educators and students in our districts for their flexibility, patience, and continued dedication to providing a positive testing experience for our students," he said. "We apologize for Pearson's failures and we will hold Pearson accountable for today's disruptions. We are committed to making sure such disruptions do not happen again."
The technical issues come at a time when state and local education officials are working toward increasing participation in the state tests through a variety of techniques including school forums, media, and one-to-one parent meetings. Tens of thousands of students in the state refused to participate in the exams last year as a result of a nationwide movement against standards-based testing. This year, however, school leaders have said that there is an increase in participation, writes Hannah Adely for NorthJersey.com.
All that came to a stop on Wednesday when students in schools across the state found they were unable to log in to take the exams. Others were able to access them, but only after some delays. Even more students had no issues logging in, but then were denied access to various portions of the exam. Only a small section of students were able to complete the exam without any problems.
Students in grades three through eleven take the PARCC exams for both math and English language arts. Elementary school students are offered the exams between April 4 and May 13, while high school students participate between April 11 and May 20, writes Karen Yi for The Courier-Post.
One of the successes Hespe refers to when speaking highly of the exams is the ease with which the state was able to switch to online testing. There were very few glitches last year, most of which were minor. However, some school leaders complained that their schedules were mixed up as they looked for a way to accommodate all of the students who needed to take the exam with only a limited supply of computers.
Hespe said that the problem that occurred this week has nothing to do with issues in the state, but instead has to do with the computer system run by Pearson. The company said the problems were caused by human error and they were working to fix the issue as soon as possible.
"Every resource at our disposal is being directed toward identifying the cause of the problem and correcting it as soon as possible without creating any additional inconvenience," Pearson said in a statement.
However, critics of the exam used the glitch as more evidence that the state needs to stop administering the PARCC exam altogether. While some say it is too hard, others say it causes teachers to focus their teaching toward what is tested on the exams. Still others are cautious of Pearson's role as a for-profit company involved in public education.