Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cyber attacks knock out testing, frustrate local school leaders

By The Herald Staff | 4/4/2014

The statewide system to test students has flunked out, school administrators said.

The Kansas State Assessments have taken longer than usual because of a cyber attack on the state’s computer servers, education officials said.

The statewide system to test students has flunked out, school administrators said.

The Kansas State Assessments have taken longer than usual because of a cyber attack on the state’s computer servers, education officials said.

“We’re hoping things get worked out and we can get back up and running,” Jeanne Stroh, superintendent of Ottawa schools, said this week. “It’s frustrating losing that instruction time.”

The Kansas Department of Education announced Tuesday that state assessment testing would be briefly suspended throughout the state.

The Kansas Interactive Testing Engine was the target of a Distributed Denial of Service attack Tuesday morning. The attacks attempt to shut down computer servers by bombarding them with large volumes of data that servers cannot handle. The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE), which is administering the state assessments, identified the issue and has outside experts working to eliminate the attack.

No student data was compromised during the attack, state education officials said.

“We’re disappointed that [Tuesday] morning’s incident occurred, but we are pleased with how the system responded and we’re confident CETE will make the necessary modifications to ensure we remain up and running,” Diane DeBacker, Kansas Education Commissioner, said.

Stroh said Ottawa began state assessment testing March 11, a week before spring break, and was testing first- through eighth-grade and high school sophomores. She said the testing, which was administered through a technology-based format, was experiencing problems, including missing questions, the tests not saving answers and tools that the technology was supposed to provide were sometimes unavailable.

To deal with the technical issues, Stroh said, the district took the week off and planned to start up again after spring break. When the students returned, the tests still were having the same problems and continued into this week, until the state suspended all testing.

“We’ve had a number of issues those first couple of days,” Stroh said. “Those kind of things are very frustrating, for kids and for parents.”

Surrounding schools have had the same problems.

At Central Heights, Jim White, superintendent, said the school has suspended state assessments and students will continue with their regular classes. Jerry Henn, Wellsville school superintendent, said the district has alternative plans “as testing continues to fail.”

The frustration is shared at West Franklin.

Dotson Bradbury, West Franklin school superintendent, said the district’s schools have stopped taking the tests, but would try one more time when the state allows after the attacks have ended. But if more problems arise, the school will call it quits on the tests, he said.

“We’ve made a good faith effort to take the state assessments, but have had a great deal of many challenges,” Bradburry said. “If [the next attempt} is not successful, then we will not ask them to continue, as we are losing instructional time.”

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