Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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May 1, 2013

ISTEP+ delays frustrate schools

INDIANAPOLIS — ISTEP+ testing was suspended across the state for the second straight day Tuesday.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Goshen Schools Superintendent Diane Woodworth.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz ordered testing halted after schools in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Carmel, Lafayette and other areas reported issues accessing the online portion of the ISTEP+ exam. The directive came a day after 27,000 students struggled to connect and complete the test.

Ritz said the issues were “unacceptable” and pledged that the Department of Education would work with schools to ensure they have enough time to administer the test once the problems are corrected.

“All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable,” she said in a statement.

Some school officials expressed concerns about how the problems would impact students’ scores.

“I have major questions now with the validity of ISTEP results. We will not get an accurate picture of how well students are doing,” Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community Schools, told the Journal & Courier.

Woodworth said she expected the state to have everything ready since this online testing was anticipated.

“We are graded by how we do on this. You would think they would have known there was a larger drain on servers,” said Woodworth.

This is the third straight year that students in grades three through eight taking the online portion of the exam have encountered problems, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Vendor CBT/McGraw-Hill LLC had initially reported all testing systems were running fine Tuesday. But it changed its status as students began logging in and connection problems arose, urging schools to suspend testing until 12:30 p.m.

Ritz said about 150,000 test sessions were completed by 11 a.m. but that interruptions spiked a short time later.

This week’s, done for students in third through eighth grade, is the second of two parts. The first, an essay and math portion, was completed in March.

This week’s section is multiple choice.

Woodworth said Monday’s testing had “major issues.”

“It’s very frustrating issues for teachers and students,” said Woodworth.

Indianapolis Public Schools spokesman John Althardt said the problems were discouraging.

“There is so much buildup and expectation and anticipation about what the test means that any disruptions in the schedule and rhythm of testing for our students is frustrating for us,” he said. “We feel we’ve done our best to prepare our students and schools and then when we’re unable to conduct this testing, it’s a source of frustration.”

In 2011, up to 10,000 students statewide were logged off and some were unable to log back in for up to an hour while taking the test. The state invalidated 215 scores that year because they were lower than expected.

About 9,000 students were kicked offline during the test last year.

Carol Stream, Ill.-based McGraw-Hill administers the exam under a four-year, $95 million contract with the Indiana Department of Education. The contract runs through June 2014.

The contract requires McGraw-Hill to provide “uninterrupted” computer availability every school day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the two weeks prior to each testing window, as well as for the entire testing window.

According to Woodworth, three additional days of testing have been added for schools.

Goshen News reporter Daniel Riordan contributed to this story.

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