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April 2, 2014

Education department: State’s testing servers hit by cyberattacks

State education officials say unknown people launched cyberattacks against statewide tests last week, further hampering a system that has experienced persistent technical glitches.

State education officials say unknown people launched cyberattacks against statewide tests last week, further hampering a system that has experienced persistent technical glitches.

According to a news release from the Kansas Department of Education, attackers slowed down or disabled the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine servers by “bombarding them with intense volumes of data that servers cannot handle.”

The attacks started Thursday and briefly stopped Sunday, officials said. Testing ran smoothly on Monday, but the cyberattacks resumed Tuesday, officials said.

No student data has been compromised, they said.

“The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, which is administering the state assessments, identified the issue and immediately had outside experts working to eradicate the attack,” the statement said.

State officials announced late Tuesday that they were suspending testing across the state until Thursday, “at which time operating enhancements will be completed.”

On Monday, Kansas schools recorded the highest volume of assessments completed since the testing window opened March 10.

State reading, math and science tests have been plagued by technology problems this year, prompting several districts, including Wichita, to delay or cancel administering them.

On Wednesday the Maize school district issued an e-mail to parents saying tests were suspended until further notice because of “broad-scale issues associated with this assessment software.”

“It is important for us to provide a positive testing experience for our students,” Maize officials said in the e-mail. “We will resume testing when we are confident that the KITE testing engine is working reliably statewide.”

Wichita school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said some Wichita schools may try testing again Thursday, but that officials would wait to see how the system works before deciding whether to continue.

Last week, the persistent computer glitches prompted officials to extend this year’s testing period by two weeks. Schools now have until May 16 to complete the tests.

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