After a cyber attack in October derailed its tests, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) is reverting back to paper.
Interim CEO Richard Jones says the cyber attack is still under investigation, and until the company can understand what happened in the fall, students will be taking their Grade 10 literacy exams on paper.
“We just don’t want to put our students at any kind of risk here. That is the main thing,” he said.
In mid-October, EQAO gave the province’s 147,000 Grade 10 students the option of completing their standardized literacy exams online rather than the traditional paper format. However, only about 18,000 students were able to fully or partially complete the exam before the system shut down. The cyber attack was characterized as targeted and malicious, and now, EQAO is looking for answers.
“We have yet to receive reports from our investigators who are looking into exactly what occurred. They are going to be making recommendations for us in terms of security and so forth,” said Jones. “We have to be absolutely sure that we can go online without students having to refer to a paper back-up.”
The plan for now is to continue with the standardized testing company’s paper exams for the March 2017 portion of the literacy test.
The nearly 20,000 students who were able to enter all or some of the answers on the online version in October will be getting their results next month.
“We made the commitment after looking at the database and the student work that we were able to score the students that had a suitable amount of work completed,” said Jones. “We can’t take the chance by giving students that online option in March.”
The attack was completely unexpected and unguarded against, says Jones.
“In hindsight, we probably should have been thinking about it, particularly when it is a one-day model. That is an area that gets targeted,” he said, adding that there were also security concerns for individual schools and school boards. “We decided that we had to stop everything.
“First of all, we didn’t know what was going on, so we couldn’t repair the issue or resolve it right away. For all we knew, there could have been attacks on boards and schools. We had that open connection with them.”
EQAO expects the results of the third-party investigation to become available in the next couple of weeks, allowing them to resume work on an online version of the standardized testing.