This story was updated April 26, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. with more information.
Some school districts across the state experienced issues with TNReady testing again Thursday after a fiber optic cable that delivers internet from Atlanta to Nashville was severed.
"The telecommunications industry has confirmed the main fiber cable between Nashville and Atlanta has been cut," a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Education said in an email to district leaders Thursday morning. "Telecommunication vendors are reaching out and calling impacted districts directly, and we will continue to keep you posted as we learn more from them."
The department advised districts to continue testing, but that connectivity could be slow.
Despite Thursday's problems, Hamilton County Schools officials said more than half of scheduled testing has been completed in the district.
Hamilton County also left it up to individual schools to decide if they wanted to continue testing today.
"At around 10 a.m. [Thursday] morning, Shannon Moody, our Director of Accountability and Research, notified schools that we have received notice from the state department regarding a fiber optic cable being damaged in middle Tennessee," said Nakia Towns Edwards, the district's chief of staff, in an email. " Schools had the flexibility to determine if they wanted to continue their schedule for [Thursday] after lunch or wait until [Friday] to resume."
At least 38 schools in Hamilton County are testing via Nextera, the online testing platform. Last week, several Hamilton County schools, along with dozens statewide, reported issues with students being able to log in and submit completed assessments.
Questar, the state's vendor that manages Nextera, experienced a potentially deliberate cyber attack on April 17, state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.
The attack and subsequent halt in testing led to McQueen reaching out to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the office of Homeland Security to investigate the attack.
Concerns about the impact on student performance and results led state lawmakers to address the issue. Two pieces of legislation have since been passed — the latest one passed Wednesday — which will prevent students, teachers, schools and districts from being penalized because of the testing issues.
Starting in third grade, students take these yearly assessments in a variety of subjects including English language arts, math, science and social studies to measure their performance, which is then tracked and used to gauge both teacher effectiveness and achievement across schools and districts.
Towns Edwards said most schools conduct their tests each day in the morning, especially at high schools where some testing begins as early as 7:30 a.m.
Almost 60,000 test sessions are scheduled in Hamilton County for this spring's assessment window, which opened April 16. Nearly 35,000 of those have been completed, Towns Edwards said.
Districts have until May 9 to complete all online testing, a time frame that was extended after last week's rocky start to testing.
Superintendent Bryan Johnson and Hamilton County district officials have repeatedly encouraged students and teachers to persevere during the testing cycle, acknowledging frustrations and emphasizing that assessments are one of various indicators of student success.
TIMELINE OF TNREADY SPRING TESTING FIASCO:
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.