JEFFERSONVILLE – Indiana school districts have been forced to determine where to place students and delay school improvement plans because of spring problems with online ISTEP+ testing.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is expected to announce results of a third-party review into the validity of this years scores on Monday. But thats too late for many districts that have had to decide which students need remedial help and where to place students without any test scores in hand.
The ISTEP+ test measures students performance and plays a key role in determining how much money districts receive. Scores also are used to hold teachers accountable and are critical to determining merit raises and job security.
Schools typically receive the results in May, but this years scores have been delayed because of computer problems during testing that knocked students offline and forced many to sign back in repeatedly. Some school officials have said they will not honor the results because of the problems, and Ritz ordered the outside review of the issues with the test administered by CTB-McGraw Hill.
Sally Jensen, director of assessment for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said shes eager to find out what the review showed.
They may think these are invalid and we cant do anything with them. Once were able to read that report about what experts say about this test data, then we formulate whether its our opinion or plan, any of that. But we need to see that first, she told the News and Tribune.
School districts use information from the tests to determine which classes students are placed into, depending on how much remediation they need or if they display exceptional mastery of concepts.
Many school officials say the lack of ISTEP+ data hasnt hurt them because theyve used internal data to determine where to place students.
But John Reed, assistant superintendent at West Clark Community Schools, acknowledged that having the ISTEP+ information would have helped.
We do a lot of triangulation, Reed said. We assess with different tools to take a look at student performance from different perspectives. Its always nice to have that additional look at a student to see how theyre performing, but its certainly not the end of everything.
Kim Knott, superintendent of Clarksville Community Schools, said some details are difficult to determine without ISTEP+ data. We cant set up remediation and intervention plans for our students without that information, Knott said.
One thing that has had to wait is the state-mandated school improvement plan. Those arent due until late September, but districts are waiting to see what the review of the ISTEP+ scores shows.
For now, weve been in a holding pattern until we see what this review is going to look like, Jensen said. Once we know if these scores are valid or not, well go from there.
Andrew Melin, superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, said there is a lot of concern about how the interruptions affected students scores.
I have a hard time believing that the scores have not been somewhat impacted by the fact that the test had these interruptions, Melin said.
Reed said hes not sure the results can carry much weight in regards to district, school or teacher performance.
I just dont see how theres going to be much argumentation to support the validity and reliability of ISTEP as far as everything that occurred, Reed said. Well take whatever we get and deal with it, but theres not going to be much to be said that will sway my opinion. That data needs to be carefully used if its going to be used for determining performance. I dont see how it can be used as far as accountability of whether a teachers effective or not.