Analyst finds no negative effects from ISTEP interruptions

2013-07-29T12:00:00Z 2013-07-30T11:12:06Z Analyst finds no negative effects from ISTEP interruptionsBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | Students whose ISTEP-Plus standardized tests were interrupted in April due to vendor computer errors performed as well as, and in some cases better than, students who were not interrupted, according to an independent analysis released Monday.

The report by Richard Hill, chairman of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc., found that while some individual students may have scored lower because of computer glitches during the online exams, there were no overall negative effects for the 79,442 students that experienced test interruptions.

Looking at specific exams, Hill determined that public school students interrupted during the math exam had math and English scores similar to students that were not interrupted.

Students interrupted during the English exam also did as well as uninterrupted students and interrupted seventh graders actually did better, Hill found.

"There is considerable evidence that the interruptions had no negative impact on student scores for the vast majority of students; indeed, students who were interrupted had somewhat larger gains across years than those who were not interrupted," said Hill, who was hired by the Indiana Department of Education in June to review the results.

Glenda Ritz, the Democratic state superintendent of public instruction, said even though Hill's report found average statewide scores were not affected by exam interruptions, it was still unacceptable for CTB/McGraw-Hill, the test vendor, to allow the interruptions to happen.

"Because of this, I have given local schools the flexibility they need to minimize the effect these tests have on various matters, such as teacher evaluation and compensation," Ritz said. "I have also instructed CTB/McGraw-Hill to conduct enhanced stress and load testing to ensure that their servers are fully prepared for next year’s test and ensure that this never happens again."

The state education department also is continuing to pursue at least $613,600 in damages from CTB/McGraw Hill for the test interruptions. The state and company are in the third year of a four-year, $95 million testing contract.

Merrillville Superintendent Mark Sperling said he finds it hard to believe that youngsters were not impacted in some way by the significant interruptions.

"I'm glad to hear it wasn't an issue statewide," he said. "I agree that our students and staff worked diligently to minimize the effect of the interruption but I find it difficult to believe there is no impact or minimal impact with the scores of kids who already struggle with these things. It will be very interesting to see our scores when they come back."

Tom Corey, Lake Station assistant superintendent, said no one has seen the scores because they haven't been released.

"I would need to see the scores but I don't think the interruption created any measurable impact," Corey said.

Ernesto Martinez, principal at Discovery Charter School in Porter said he hopes the charter school students did as well this year as they have in the past.

"It's hard to tell with the interruptions. Students were sitting in front of a computer. It could have made them anxious,"  Martinez said. "It's kind of an immeasurable factor. We anticipate they did as well as they normally do."

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