Computer glitches affected hundreds of students taking an essay exam on Saturday as part of the application for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Students who had reached the semifinals of the competitive admission process for the magnet school gathered at 15 testing sites across Northern Virginia on Saturday. But more than a third of the applicants had trouble submitting their work through the online system.
Of 1,496 applicants, about 500 students encountered computer problems while taking the writing test. The technical issues affected students at all 15 testing locations - 12 in Fairfax County and three in neighboring districts.
“Where was the back-up plan?” said Beverly Jurenko, president of the Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, in a statement. “This failure cripples the admissions process and places undue stress on the students.”
This year marked the premiere of the new online system. Previously, essays were written and submitted in paper form. Hiccups in the electronic submission process left students rewriting essays or worrying over vanishing responses.
Immediately following the Saturday morning exams, the Thomas Jefferson admissions office sent an e-mail to applicants’ families about the computer glitches.
“We are now assessing the extent of the technical difficulties and are deeply sorry for the problem,” wrote Jeremy Shughart, the school’s director of admissions.
The admissions office plans to notify parents and students by Jan. 31 of the plans moving forward. The school system is exploring possible options, including allowing applicants to review their essays online or retake the test.
“The goal is to ensure that no student is placed at a disadvantage as a result of these issues,” said John Torre, the spokesman for county schools.
Superintendent Karen Garza’s visit to the Lee District, canceled due to snow last week, has been rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 17.
Garza is visiting each district in the county. She was meant to appear at Twain Middle School on Jan. 21, but will now appear at the school on Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
The other remaining two appearances on the listening tour are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at West Springfield High School, and Monday, Feb. 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Lake Braddock Secondary School.
Shawn DeRose, assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and Kathy Beatty, a math teacher at Centreville High School, have both won accolades from state educational associations.
DeRose has been named the 2014 Outstanding Assistant Principal for the state by the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
Though he is in his first year as assistant principal at the magnet school, he already has become known for his community outreach efforts. Before becoming assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson, he served as the student activities director for three years, and prior to that worked as an assistant principal at Stuart High School.
Beatty has been named Outstanding Mathematics Educator of the Year by the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics. A teacher at Centreville since 1991, colleagues praised her ability to engage with students.