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TNReady deadline extended amid online testing issues

TNReady testing hit problems for a second day in a row, which the education commissioner says could be the result of a 'deliberate attack' on the testing system.

The deadline for schools to complete TNReady testing has been extended because of issues with the online system.

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen notified school officials Tuesday the deadline for schools to complete the online tests will be pushed back from May 6 to May 9. The deadline for paper tests is still the same.

"We are extending this window for two critical reasons: to ensure that your testing coordinators have time to recover students’ previously started tests today so no student answers are lost and to allow for the two days of issues this week," McQueen wrote in an email update about the testing issues Tuesday night.

Earlier Tuesday, Tennessee House Democrats called for McQueen's immediate resignation after TNReady testing was disrupted by issues for a second day in a row.

The twitter account for TN House Democrats posted a poll Tuesday afternoon asking if McQueen should resign, citing "yet another #TNReady debacle."

Tennessee education officials say the company handling the online portion of the TNReady test "may have experienced a deliberate attack this morning."

McQueen said the state doesn't know how many students were impacted by the issue, but said 120,000 test sessions have been completed statewide during the first two days of testing.

It comes as more school districts face problems with taking the online test, including Knox County and Williamson County, both which had to cancel testing for the day.

Knox County Schools spokesperson Carly Harrington said they have suspended testing online for Tuesday and students taking pencil and paper tests continued testing.

"Our plan is to begin testing again tomorrow, once we receive information from the state that issue has been resolved," Harrington said.

KCS believes the blame lies with the testing company, Questar, since the problem was experienced around the state.

"We really felt just like any other year that we were ready to go," said Jon Rysewyk, KCS chief academic officer. "It's unfortunate and frustrating."

At West High School, more than 800 students sat through the full 90 minute test, only to be told they could not submit their answers once they had finished.

"They were taking the time doing a great job and then all of a sudden we get ready to submit and we are not able to do that," principal Ashley Jessie said. "It's very frustrating. We've spent many months trying to prepare for this testing calendar."

Harrington said out of the five elementary schools that opted to have their fifth grade students test online, Hardin Valley was the only one affected by the issue logging on.

Four middle schools could not take the test: Bearden Middle School, Cedar Bluff Middle School, Powell Middle School and Halls Middle School.

Out of 16 high schools, the following 15 were impacted: Austin-East High School, Bearden High School, Carter High School, Central High School, Fulton High School, Gibbs High School, Halls High School, Karns High School, L&N STEM Academy, Paul Kelley Volunteer Academy, Powell High School, Richard Yoakley, Ridgedale, South-Doyle, and West High School.

Byington-Solway Career and Technical Education Center could not test Monday but was able to test Tuesday.

On Monday, teachers and students reported having similar difficulties logging into the Nextera system to take the assessments.

►Related: Knox Co. students to begin TNReady on day 2 after login issues

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said 25,000 students successfully logged on to take their TNReady test Monday morning before the issue began. Here is her statement to school directors:

"It appears Questar’s data center may have experienced a deliberate attack this morning based on the way traffic is presenting itself. They are currently resetting the system. However, the attacker may take these same steps again, and Questar is actively working on further reinforcements, including notifying authorities."

"To our knowledge, no student data has been compromised.

If you are testing, please continue. When a student is finished, please pause the test and note which student has used which machine, as students’ tests are stored on that specific device. Again, the software is designed to save students’ work, so if their testing session is disrupted, they can resume and submit their answers later. We will notify you when the system is back up, and the students can return to that device and submit.

"New students will likely not be able to log-in this morning, but we anticipate they will be able to do so this afternoon. We will be in touch as soon as possible with an update."