After two days of issues with the TN Ready assessment platform, East Tennessee parents and educators are looking for answers.
Department officials say there is no evidence that student data or information was compromised in the in the attack, adding that the software is designed to mask and protect student information.
The source of the unusual traffic patterns has been blocked and the testing company, Questar, is working to prevent further issues, according to state officials.
In Knox County, school district leaders were notified of issues two mornings in a row and began troubleshooting locally.
“To make sure everything was where it needed to be on our end, the paper tests — all stored properly,” said Dr. Jon Rysewyk, Chief Academic Officer for Knox County Schools.
Rysewyk says the district is “frustrated” with the issues and plans to take the complaints to state leaders in the weeks to follow.
“We are frustrated along with the students, and the families and with our teachers. They do work extremely hard for this and historically this is a very proud moment for Knox County. It’s something we get excited about to see how we test out. We’re frustrated with that too and we understand their frustrations too. We hope tomorrow when hey work these glitches out we’ll be able to go again,” said Rysewyk.
Parents, like August Askins, have children taking the test for the first time. She says her daughter, in 5th grade, didn’t have any issues because she used a paper and pencil test. She says looking ahead she hopes the problem is solved.
“I do have some concerns, you know, for when — if — there is an electronic version of the test. Is that taking away from the instructional time when we have mishaps like this?” said Askins.
Other educators say making the move from online testing to strictly paper and pencil could solve some of the mechanical issues.
“To hear stories of parents with children in tears because at the end of the assessment their work wasn’t saved, or they couldn’t log in and their work was lost. I think that has disheartened kids and teachers and it’s not good for our morale,” said school board member Amber Rountree.
Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen released a statement to school district directors statewide, sharing plans for the rest of the week, including plans to resume testing Wednesday.
“While I have talked to and heard from many of you at various times today, I want to again share how completely devastated I was this morning when we heard that we were again having issues with TNReady. I want to personally apologize to each of you and to your many staff, teachers, and students who have been handling these issues with patience and a positive attitude. We are very grateful.”
The online testing window has also been extended three days to May 9th.
This isn’t the first issue state educators have had with Questar Assessment, the company that administers and scores TNReady tests. In October 2017, Tennessee education officials said nearly 10,000 assessment tests across the state were impacted by a program scanning issue that caused some of them to be scored incorrectly.
In July 2016, The Tennessee Department of Education awarded a $60 million contract to develop and administer annual state assessment tests for the 2016-2017 school year to Questar.