A disruption to Internet access at the site of a Kansas-based assessment provider delayed testing of students across the country and caused Alaska to cancel state assessments altogether this school year.
A backhoe used in construction work at the University of Kansas on March 29 accidentally cut a fiber-optic cable providing the campus’s digital connection. Servers at the university’s Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation, which provides state assessments for students in Kansas and Alaska, went down.
The stoppage meant students in those states taking CETE tests could not finish or begin testing. And students in 15 other states, in addition to Kansas and Alaska, which use the center’s Dynamic Learning Maps to assess students with significant cognitive disabilities, also were unable to access the tests.
The university worked quickly to patch the cable, and testing resumed with limited capacity the following day, said Marianne Perie, the director of CETE. On March 31, CETE told states they couldreturn to normal testing, but the system was overloaded and went down again. Testing resumed last week and was back to normal with 21,000 students testing simultaneously with no difficulties, she said.
Still, Alaska’s interim education commissioner, Susan McCauley, announced on April 1 that the state would cancel CETE’s testing for all students this academic year. McCauley said the unreliability of the system—being told it was back online only to have it crash again—and considerations unique to Alaska, such as the remoteness of many schools, prompted her decision.
“The amount of chaos in Alaska schools ... cannot be overstated,” she said in an interview last week, adding that teachers had to scramble to create lessons when they thought testing was to take place instead. “To ask teachers and students to ‘try it again’ with no guarantee that it was going to work was irresponsible.”
The center plans to put a contingency plan in place to prevent future issues, Perie said.
A version of this article appeared in the April 13, 2016 edition of Education Week as Internet Trouble Pushes Back Assessments in Many States