ISTEP testing resumes after two days of problems

2013-05-01T17:30:00Z 2013-05-02T00:50:04Z ISTEP testing resumes after two days of problemsStaff and wire reports nwitimes.com
May 01, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana students resumed taking required standardized tests Wednesday after two days of computer glitches that temporarily halted testing.

The Indiana Department of Education said in a statement that administration of the ISTEP Plus exams' online portion resumed Wednesday morning, but schools were being asked to decrease their daily test load to 50 percent of normal levels until further notice.

Local districts reported testing ran smoothly compared with the first two days set aside by the state for the exam.

However, Sharon Johnson-Shirley, superintendent of Lake Ridge Schools, said she was concerned that if the state doesn't extend the window for ISTEP testing beyond May 15, the district will not meet the deadline.

"If they don't move the window or add some additional days, they are never going to make it," Johnson-Shirley said. "They are truly frustrated. My staff, so much is riding on this test for them. To have this many problems, it creates pandemonium."

Johnson-Shirley said she wants the state to consider throwing out this round of testing and starting over next year.

"Our staff and most teachers are troopers," Johnson-Shirley said. "They just move on with the hand they are dealt. With them trying to keep the students calm, we are in a different circumstance. With high-achievement students, no problems, but with kids not achieving to the top level, they are frustrated."

Ken Benich, School City of Hammond technology director, said testing went well Wednesday, but the district reduced the number of students tested by half per Education Department suggestions. Benich said the district was advised to continue at a 50 percent testing load for Thursday.

The department says the resumption of testing was based on assurances it received from test vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has called the testing problems "unacceptable." She ordered testing halted Tuesday after 27,000 students struggled to connect online and complete the test.

Ritz said Wednesday the state will look at the validity of the test.

"Our first goal is just to get through the actual testing window and make sure all students are taking the test," Ritz said. "Then we will be meeting with CTB and talking about the validity of the questions — that is a prime concern."

CTB/McGraw-Hill is the contractor in Indiana and Oklahoma and administers statewide standardized tests in eight other states.

In Indiana, the company is in the third year of a four-year, $95 million contract. In Oklahoma, it has a one-year, $16 million contract with an option to renew an additional four years.

Indiana suspended testing Monday and Tuesday, the same days Oklahoma reported problems.

CTB/McGraw-Hill spokesman Dan Sieger said by email Wednesday that the company was focused on ensuring the stability of the testing and regrets the "impact on these schools and students."

"The interruptions are not acceptable to students and educators or to CTB/McGraw-Hill," Sieger said in the email. "We have worked with the schools in these states for many years and value our relationships with them."

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