Glitch Forces Students in Va. to Stop Mid-Exam

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

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.

"This has affected schools in every area . . . and we will have students who will have to retest," Pyle said. "As more reports come in, we may see that number increase."

Pyle said Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax schools are among the county systems that will have to repeat the exams. Students in those counties were unable to finish about 900 tests, he said.

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.

The No Child law calls for math and reading tests for students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. It requires that schools improve scores over time. Schools that don't meet annual goals face sanctions, and students must pass high school exams to graduate.

Pyle said that as some students were taking tests yesterday, their computer screens suddenly turned blue and displayed an error message.

A Pearson spokesman referred calls to the state.

State officials said there was an unrelated computer problem with online testing last week. Pyle said that about 1,300 tests were interrupted and that the students will have to be retested.

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