(Photo: Courtesy of Michael Surran) 

In the middle of taking new statewide social studies and science tests Tuesday morning, thousands of Colorado students were told to stop.  That’s because of technical difficulties originating at Pearson, Colorado’s for-profit testing contractor.

The Colorado Department of Education didn’t have the numbers of students affected, but more than 34,000 students were scheduled to take the test Tuesday.  Students in fifth and eighth grades are taking new science assessments, and students in fourth and seventh grades are doing social studies tests.

Pearson detected the problem at 10:26 a.m. when it said the system was “registering degraded administrative functions. Primary symptoms of this condition included slow process in adding students, slow resumption of testing, and slow screen refreshes.”

CDE officials told schools to not start or resume additional tests.

Pearson said the testing resumed at 12:15 p.m., though processing was still slow. State officials said schools and districts had to decide whether to resume testing or test on another day.

While Pearson says students that had already begun testing prior to the service interruption were unaffected and able to continue and complete their sessions, some students and teachers reported that frustration levels were very high because the interruption disrupted schedules throughout schools.   

But "the components of PearsonAccess that manage scoring and reporting were unaffected," said Pearson spokeswoman Stacy Skelly.

In Denver, 48 schools had started administering the test and 32 called the district's CMAS hotline to report issues with Pearson. 

Even though the technical difficulties weren’t impacting students actively taking the test, because they prevented staff from actively monitoring testing from the dashboard, “DPS [Denver Public Schools] has decided to halt all testing for the remainder of the day,” a district administrator wrote in an email to schools.

“We must ensure we are not losing student data, and without the dashboard feature we cannot confirm that students are completing the test as expected."