Toronto

EQAO computer glitch frustrates students, province vows to find cause

Provincial officials are scrambling to figure out why Ontario's brand-new online system for standardized tests crashed on Thursday, while students express frustration that a literacy test they'd prepared for was cancelled.

Education minister confident the system will be fixed

Jack Dean, a Grade 10 student at Neil McNeil High School in Toronto, said it "kind of sucked" that he and his fellow students had to wait three hours only to be told they weren't writing the EQAO test. (CBC)

Provincial officials are scrambling to figure out why Ontario's brand-new online system for standardized tests crashed on Thursday, leaving students expressing frustration that a literacy test they'd prepared for was cancelled without warning. 

The glitch affected more than 100,000 high school students, including Saverio Lomonaco, who is in Grade 10 at Neil McNeil High School on Victoria Park Avenue near Kingston Road in Toronto.

"Going into the test you have a mindset ...  but after waiting for hours you start to goof around and lose it after a while," Lomonaco told CBC News Thursday.

"The government being the government, I think they'd be able to better organize this system, this test," he said.  

It was the first time the test was being offered online in a "field readiness" evaluation of the new system. The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) runs provincial tests and is investigating the cause of the glitch.

"We spent like three hours trying to get on computers trying to take the test, so it kind of sucked," said Jack Dean, another Grade 10 student at Neil McNeil.

"After waiting so long, I didn't want to take it anyway, so it's kind of a relief."

Government critic pounces on flaw

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is promising to make the result of the investigation public. 

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says she's confident EQAO can correct the computer glitch before students have to take the literacy test in the spring. (File Photo)

"What's important is they're going to look into what happened and make sure they're ready for the spring," she said, referring to the time when the next literacy test is scheduled. Students must pass it to graduate. 

When asked if she expects EQAO to get the system fixed in time, Hunter said: "Yes, I am confident in their abilities."

But PC education critic John Yakabuski isn't so confident. 

"This government ... every time they roll out something new it's beset with problems," Yakabuski said, pointing to the new welfare computer system that generated millions in incorrect payments in 2014.

With files from Mike Crawley