Test company president apologizes for ISTEP+ interruptions

2013-06-21T19:30:00Z 2013-06-23T00:31:06Z Test company president apologizes for ISTEP+ interruptionsDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
June 21, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The president of CTB/McGraw Hill, the company that administers the annual ISTEP+ standardized exams, repeatedly apologized to a panel of Indiana lawmakers Friday for technology problems that interrupted testing for thousands of Hoosier students.

"Let me begin first, before I say anything else, by apologizing to you on behalf of myself and all of the employees at CTB," Ellen Haley said. "It was very disappointing to us to have this happen and have this impact our schoolchildren."

Haley told lawmakers some students initially experienced long pauses between questions on the online exams because of a lack of server capacity at CTB/McGraw Hill.

After adding capacity following testing problems April 29, a shortage of memory for the testing software resulted in students experiencing additional interruptions April 30, Haley said.

"This should not have happened at all," she said. "I know it's unacceptable to you. Believe me, it's unacceptable to me, too."

She said CTB/McGraw Hill conducted extensive testing of its computer systems before students took the ISTEP+. However, the company discovered its simulations did not match how students actually worked through the exams and its equipment could not keep up.

"We are taking this summer to relook at the entire platform, the entire system, and especially our testing processes," Haley said. "We're going to pull up those scripts, those scenarios, those rules for testing, and we need to modify them."

State Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, a member of the Indiana Commission on Education, said the CTB/McGraw Hill failures are a major concern, not only because the test results are used to rate schools and set teacher salaries, but because they subjected children to multiple days of extra testing stress.

"I know my kids are always stressed out, not frustrated, but very stressed knowing that their intellect is going to be tested," VanDenburgh said. "Then to have to go through it all again? And is it going to end today?"

The Indiana Department of Education announced Friday it plans to seek 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.

Validity assessments of the interrupted exams, conducted by the testing company and an independent reviewer chosen by the state, are expected to be completed in mid-July.

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