TNReady problems caused by ‘deliberate attack’ on data center, SCS Superintendent says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee education officials say a "deliberate attack" against a software vendor Tuesday morning caused problems with TNReady online testing.

SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says the data center that administers the TNReady tests was hacked, which caused the testing delays.

The same disruption may have affected standardized tests in Mississippi.

Tuesday is the second day for online TNReady, the state's standardized tests, which are administered by a vendor called Questar.

Students were already reporting problems with the online system Tuesday morning. Collierville schools and Houston High School in Germantown both reported that they were suspending testing for the day. Lakeland schools also experienced problems.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said there were problems logging in at several schools Tuesday.

The Tennessee Department of Education sent out a tweet stating: "It appears Questar’s data center may have experienced a deliberate attack this morning based on traffic patterns. They are resetting the system, and we have shared more info on next steps with directors of schools. We will share an update when we know more."

By noon, the department said testing had resumed and Questar was taking steps to prevent a repeat attack.

The state also apologized to educators and students, acknowledging challenges presented to scheduling and morale.

"There is absolutely no evidence that student data or information has been compromised," the Tennessee Department of Education said.

Questar was paid $32 million for the TNReady system, according to state records.

The failure caused outrage among some elected officials in Shelby County.

“Every year we experience failure after failure and problem after problem,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis. “We are supposed to use these tests to assess the progress our schools are making, our school districts are making, our students are making and our teachers are making. It’s time to start making assessments about the progress our Department of Education is making.”

Lakeland School District board chairman Kevin Floyd sent a letter to the governor and state education commissioner expressing his "disappointment and frustration" with the second failure in three years for TNReady online tests.

"The state continues to rely on these tests to hold our teachers and administrators accountable, yet there appears to be very little accountability on the part of the state officials and their vendors responsible for ensuring that these tests are administered smoothly," Floyd wrote. "Our teachers, students and administrators deserve better as do others across the state."

The Questar problems also apparently affected statewide testing in Mississippi on Tuesday.

The Mississippi Department of Education said that some schools experienced a disruption in testing between 9 and 10 a.m., though the department said testing resumed by 10 a.m.

"The MDE has contacted Questar Assessment, Inc. about today’s connectivity issue and is awaiting further information about the root cause and steps the company has taken to prevent any future disruption," the department wrote on its website.