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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The state of Virginia plans to have all of our students take their standardized tests online within the next five years. High school students are already doing that this month.

So, how’s that going?

Thousands of Virginia students who took state standardized tests online yesterday were forced to stop because of a computer problem and will have to retake the exams, state education officials said.

Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said school districts so far have reported that about 2,900 tests will have to be administered again. He said the testing vendor, Iowa-based Pearson Educational Measurement, reported that there was a problem with a connection between two servers.

The interruption — the second glitch with online testing in a week — came amid a critical testing time in Virginia schools. Students have been taking Standards of Learning exams, which are used to determine whether schools meet state standards and measure up under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Pearson owns a large chunk of the education testing business in the US (and many districts like ours pay them a boat-load of money for it), so you’d think they’d know how to make it work.

However, since the company had plenty of problems getting the process right during testing season in the past couple of years, there’s not much reason to be optimistic.

pearson, standardized testing, virginia


  1. Doug Johnson

    Hi Tim,

    We’ve just gone through this (on a smaller scale) here in Minnesota with our MTELL (Math Test for English Language Learners). A real mess. I don’t think Pearson understands scaleability.

    At one point our DOE assessment department was saying “Online by “ought – 9” to which the district techs replies, “Back to pen by “ought-10.”

    Sometimes the cynics are accurate.

    Thanks for sharing this. I passed it on to our state tech listserv.


  2. Tim

    While Pearson told the Post that they have fixed everything, the problems continue. The article in the paper was pretty mild. You should hear the screaming from inside the district. :-)

  3. Tim Lauer

    If you aren’t aware of Oregon’s mess with online testing this year take a look here:

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