05/01/13 ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress)testing for students in grades three through eight all over the state have experienced interruptions over the past two days, according to the Indiana Department of Educational (IDOE). The problems are stemming from computer glitches.
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, issued a statement on the matter on Tuesday.
Ritz said, “I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana Schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for a second consecutive day. Like all Hoosier parents, students, and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.” Interruptions on Monday affected some 27,000 students state-wide.
On Tuesday, afternoon, Daniel Altman of the IDOE confirmed that the matter is still being investigated. Altman said, “They (officials) are still gathering data on how widespread the interruptions were.” He said it appears that the servers at CTB McGraw-Hill were at fault and that McGraw-Hill is looking into both the nature and the cause of the problems. McGraw-Hill provides the online testing.
Ritz said, “We have been constantly monitoring the situation this morning. Between approximately 7:30 and 11:00 over 150,000 test sessions were completed. At approximately 11:15 A.M. there was a spike in the test interruptions.”
The testing errors prompted Ritz to stop testing on Tuesday. She said, “Because of these errors, I have instructed the Department of Education 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. All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable.”
Altman indicated that students should be able to pick up where they left off on a particular test when the problems are fixed.
Plymouth Schools Superintendent Daniel Tyree informed parents on Tuesday afternoon. In a letter sent home with the students involved, Tyree said, “For the third year in a row, CTB McGraw–Hill, the company that provides the online ISTEP, has had a system-wide shut down of the testing program causing students to be abruptly taken off the test.”
Tyree went on to say, “Giving an online test is not a choice, it’s a requirement. Plymouth schools has provided our students with excellent computers and Internet to ensure that they can have the very best tools for taking the high-stakes test. For the third year in a row, the problem has come from CTB McGraw-Hill.”
Tyree shared his frustrations from this year and previous years as well. He said, “The first two years, we kept our concerns to ourselves. We didn’t want to whine about the testing issues. But the issues we had in testing today leads me to say, enough is enough!” In the letter, Tyree indicated that he would be seeking the help of state legislators on the matter. He said, “I will be writing a formal letter to our legislators, Senators Randy Head and Ryan Mishler and Representative Tim Harman. I will also be sending a letter to State Superintendent Glenda Ritz at the Indiana Department of Education.” He added, “I will be nice, but I will say very clearly that technical issues with our high stakes test is unacceptable and we need to look for testing vendor who can provide a test that will be delivered with fidelity.”
School officials across the state say they are worried that his disruptions will affect the final scores from the tests and give an inaccurate picture of the school systems. Plymouth Assistant Superintendent Dan Funston indicated that the high-stakes factors affected teachers, principals and superintendents. Funston said, “Student successes play into their (teachers) evaluations result now. If the results are not favorable, there is no increase in salary.” He added, “The same holds true for principals and the same for superintendents.” He said, “The rating is how well students do on this test.” Funston said the impact on students has been transferred now to teachers. “Students want to do well for their teachers.” In terms of students, he said, “ISTEP results are only one factor in determining if a student attends summer school.” Funston said students are not always able to pick up where they left off. He said, in the past, there have been instances where the test was not recovered.
According to Funston, Plymouth elementary students had only taken one session before the disruption, Riverside Intermediate students were just beginning, and Lincoln Junior High students experienced no trouble. He called the interruptions a distraction to testing.
Ken Shirley, LaVille Elementary assistant principal, said, “We suspended all testing today at 11:10.” He said, “We had a few (students) that made it through, but with all the problems we had yesterday, we made the call to stop today.” He said they have been told by the state office that the testing sites should be up and running by 7:30 A.M. on Wednesday.
Statement released Tuesday evening on the ISTEP issue:
Statement of Indiana Department of Education Regarding ISTEP+ Testing on May 1, 2013
Based upon assurances made by CTB McGraw Hill, the Indiana Department of Education is opening ISTEP+ testing this morning, Wednesday, May 1. In order to prevent further issues, the DOE is asking schools to decrease their daily test load to 50% of their normal levels until further notice. The DOE will work with local schools to ensure that they have the time they need to fairly administer the test. More detailed information will be released tomorrow.
Ritz said, “At this time, CTB McGraw-Hill believes that testing will be able to continue tomorrow (Wednesday). I will communicate with schools directly regarding the time-frame to resume testing.”
Carol Anders Correspondent