PATERSON, NJ - New Jersey Department of Education officials announced an undefined computer problem caused the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments to be undeliverable at all locations in New Jersey Wednesday. 

Students and teachers in Paterson faced altered schedules and disrupted instruction due to corporate-level problems at Pearson Education, the developers and deliverers of the online testing program.

Teachers and administrators scrambled to reschedule the test on Pearson’s promise of readiness. 

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Deb Cornavaca, education activist and East Brunswick parent, was attending a meeting with New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe when the news came about problems with Wednesday's testing. 

She responded to the Pearson snafu by saying, “The fact that there was a massive failure on the part of Pearson today causing statewide cancelation of PARCC testing should give pause to every parent, board of education member and superintendent. Districts have been forced to spend millions to prepare for PARCC and adjusted weeks of student learning. And Pearson cannot even implement the test properly. We are wasting time and money. It needs to stop.”  

Misunderstanding about PARCC continues to be a concern for students, parents, and educators. Currently, PARCC is one of several avenues by which students can earn their diploma. According to state law, PARCC is not a graduation requirement for students currently in grades 8 through 11. A recent court ruling indicates that New Jersey may have violated that law in making the PARCC a graduation requirement.

In his statement released by the NJDOE late Wednesday afternoon, NJ Education Commissioner David Hespe stated, “I would like to thank all the educators and students in our districts for their flexibility, patience, and continued dedication to providing a positive testing experience for our students. We apologize for Pearson’s failures and we will hold Pearson accountable for today’s disruptions. We are committed to making sure such disruptions do not happen again.” 

He added, “We appreciate your continued leadership and tremendous efforts in ensuring a positive testing experience for your students.  The Department will continue to be engaged with Pearson on this issue and will hold Pearson accountable for their failures today.”  In the brief letter to districts, it was unclear what “hold Pearson accountable” means.

Laura Howe, Pearson’s Vice President for Media and Communications, released the following statement regarding Wednesday's failure: “Pearson is truly sorry for an issue this morning that caused a disruption for New Jersey families and their students and resulted in the cancellation of PARCC testing today in many school districts. We know that students and teachers have put in a tremendous amount of work to master the high academic standards set forth in New Jersey, and they deserve a smooth testing experience.

Every resource at our disposal is being directed toward identifying the cause of the problem and correcting it as soon as possible without creating any additional inconvenience. While our internal review into what went wrong is not yet complete, we’ve been able to ascertain that this was a technical glitch introduced by a Pearson employee — not a problem with server capacity or the student testing system.

Last night, in an effort to optimize performance of the test administration system used in New Jersey, Pearson made some adjustments that were deployed Tuesday night through Wednesday morning. In doing this, Pearson introduced an unexpected problem that restricted access to the administrative system. We are correcting the issue and will work to ensure it does not happen again.

We do apologize and continue to communicate with the New Jersey Department of Education with any and all updates.”   

The fault with the testing, then, lay with a single employee of Pearson who adjusted the system, according to the Pearson spokesperson.  As a result, New Jersey students in grade 3 to 11 lost a full day of instruction.

Laura Slover, CEO of PARCC Inc., the project manager for the PARCC assessment, stated, “We are disappointed by the disruptions in testing that were created today as a result of errors on the part of Pearson. These kinds of mistakes are unacceptable." 

She added, "Mistakes like the one that occurred today are indefensible. It is important to us that these tests be administered in a way that eliminates avoidable disruptions and inconveniences, and earlier today, leaders from New Jersey and PARCC Inc. delivered that message to Pearson in the strongest possible terms.”

Pearson Education was on the line today for its disturbance of students’ education, test delivery, and assessment implementation.  Called “indefensible mistakes,” “disruptions,” and “massive failures,” the enormous problems seem unlikely to have been caused by a “technical glitch introduced by a Pearson employee.”   Talk about being thrown under the school bus.