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Schools

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FWCS rejects ISTEP+ results, presses review

– Fort Wayne Community Schools has refused to accept results – good or bad – from this year’s ISTEP+ exam and is calling on lawmakers to re-evaluate the state’s system of accountability centered on test scores.

The district will not use the data from the test in its evaluations and will not distribute the test results to parents or teachers “unless and until they can be validated by a legitimate, independent third party.”

“It is now time to pause sanctions related to this test – a test that was not designed to measure all aspects of educational achievement,” FWCS officials wrote in an overview.

The second round of online, multiple choice standardized testing was plagued with errors and other problems for students across the state. The server of the state’s testing vendor, CTB/McGraw Hill, experienced numerous issues in the first several days of testing, forcing the Department of Education to extend the testing window by about a week. Students were logged off the system or received error messages when trying to submit answers.

Some schools were still reporting problems into the second week of testing.

FWCS hopes to keep the problems and the consequences for schools and students at the forefront in hopes that laws passed tying the state assessment to district and school grades as well as teacher evaluation and compensation might be revoked.

“We are asking the community to join us in opening the dialogue of, ‘Is this how we want to operate, where one test is the basis for everything?’ ” district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

Officials in FWCS, the largest district in the state, called for an independent review of the test results shortly after the state experienced problems.

In Indiana, CTB/McGraw-Hill is in the third year of a four-year, $95 million contract. CTB/McGraw Hill officials have said the company was focused on ensuring the stability of the testing and regrets the “impact on these schools and students.”

The company ran simulations to prepare for the tests in Indiana but did not “fully anticipate the patterns of live student testing,” the company said.

In an overview of the completed test, FWCS officials called the test a waste of time and resources “that could have been better spent on real efforts to ensure academic achievement.”

To prepare for the test, FWCS spent more than $550,000 purchasing 711 computers for elementary schools to get the majority of its students testing online, at the state’s urging. Teachers spent hours practicing online testing procedures to ensure students were prepared and comfortable, district officials said.

The vendor also sent last-minute updates to the district’s 4,600 computers days before the exam started. The vendor also sent updates during the testing window when systems used to test special education students and English language learners were experiencing problems, officials said.

“We will not stand by and be victims of this broken system,” officials wrote.

The overview will be sent to lawmakers, community and business leaders, parents, staff and Parent Teacher Associations, with a letter containing a message tailored to the group outlining the effects of the testing problems.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has also suggested a third party review of the test results.

sarah.janssen@jg.net

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