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ISTEP+ testing suspended again

Computer glitches cause problems into second day

Schools around the state lost another day of ISTEP+ testing after a second day of problems with the online testing vendor.

Initially, some students were able to log on and begin testing and even finish, but the state Department of Education reported that schools began experiencing problems around 11:15 Tuesday morning. The DOE then instructed schools to suspend testing for the remainder of the day.

“This decision was not made lightly but was done to minimize further disruptions for our schools,” Glenda Ritz, superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. “All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable. “

Ritz said in the statement that CBT/McGraw Hill, the state’s online testing vendor, expects to have testing back up today.

She said she will notify schools directly with a time to resume testing.

“The Indiana Department of Education is working with the company that administers the test to ensure that the rest of the test is administered smoothly and efficiently,” Ritz said. “We will also conduct a thorough review to determine the exact cause of this issue. Finally, we will also work with local schools so that they have the time they need to administer a fair test for all Hoosier students.”

Monday marked the first day of ISTEP+ testing for the multiple-choice portion of the test for about 500,000 Hoosier students. The short-answer section was taken earlier this year.

Schools across the state were forced to suspend testing Monday after experiencing glitches with the online testing system. DOE spokesman Daniel Altman said Monday students had trouble accessing the system or were interrupted while taking the test, although no data was lost. He had said Monday that the department hoped testing would resume Tuesday.

Area schools have all expressed frustration with the problems, especially because the stakes are high. Test scores are used to assign grades to schools and districts through the state’s A-F accountability grading system.

Legislation has also required test scores be a factor in teacher evaluations.

“There could be very real consequences for the schools if some students are not able to bounce back,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. “Each year when we get results back, we see schools that missed a higher letter grade by just one or two students passing. With so much weight placed on the grades, including now the availability of vouchers, we are counting on the state to make sure these issues are fixed. And we know the state shares our concerns.”

East Allen County Schools plans to not begin testing until the state has experienced one full day of successful online testing, said Tamyra Kelly, spokeswoman for the district. She said teachers and administrators are disappointed after working hard to prepare students for the test.

“Our teachers and students were geared up, and it’s disappointing that it’s not happened,” she said.

Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Steve Yager said some of the district’s middle school students were able to finish sessions Tuesday morning, but elementary students were not.

“We’re all very frustrated. It is getting to the point where the tests may need to be declared invalid,” he said.

In the first year of online testing, the department experienced similar difficulties with students not being able to access the system, but fewer problems were reported last year after the department worked with CTB/McGraw Hill to fix the problems.

The state has pushed each year for more and more students to take the standardized tests online.

In FWCS, all students in grades three through eight who take the test, with some exceptions for special education and other students, are taking it online. With limited computing devices, the district has to stagger students taking the test throughout the testing window.

Stockman said the state has extended the testing window to May 15 to allow schools more time to complete the testing.

sjanssen@jg.net

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