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Student FSA testing begins this week

Posted at 6:24 AM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 18:07:12-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The start of student testing season officially gets underway this week.

Thousands of students will be taking the writing version of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) test. The exams are important because the state uses it to grade schools on their performance.

District officials across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast have criticized the test for its glitches.

In 2015, the test was new for third to tenth grade students.  Testing experienced glitches and was hacked by a cyber attack in some counties.

Last year students sometimes could not log into the testing system, they got booted off midway through or were accidentally moved into another test session.

The state is promising those issues have been resolved, saying one student disruption is too many.  The Florida Department of Education said they upgrading cyber-security.

The Florida Department of Education says it worked with its testing contractors to add safeguards and make improvements.  Officials added a delete warning, so students won't lose their work.  The test also allows students to restore previous versions.  Now, test takers will also be prohibited from moving onto the next section before they're allowed to.

On Monday, students in grades 4 to 10 will begin taking the writing section, but only those in grades 8 through 10 will take it on a computer.  The state said students have been giving practice online tests to familiarize themselves with the testing.

The Palm Beach County School District said they've run infrastructure tests, which have gone smoothly.  They also have a phone bank and IT team on standby to visit schools if the need arises.

Some parents said the test-taking issues speak to a larger problem.

"I think it drives the kids nuts, because they have to practice, practice, practice and it gets them kinda paranoid," said Jamesha Federick, a parent.

"Those teachers get squashed down into this everybody do the same thing, cookie cutter let me teach to this test," said Kori Epps, a mother. "It's such a shame."

Dr. Kathi Gundlach, the president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association said schools focus way too much on testing now, causing it to lose its' value.

"It's just a very stressful time for students and adults in the school system, and it shouldn't be," she said.

Gundlach said the schools were not ready for the computer testing.

"We don't necessarily have the infrastructure," she said. "The legislature hasn't provided the money."