Educators concerned about more ISTEP glitches this year

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In less than three weeks, hundreds of thousands of Indiana students start taking those high-stakes ISTEP exams. After last year's debacle, everyone is asking what's next.

WTHR found ISTEP preparations and problems in Indianapolis-area schools.

IPS 61 tripled the number of computers for students to use. They're newer and faster. The inner city school passed the so-called ISTEP technology stress test.

"You're feeling better this year than last year?" Eyewitness News asked Principal Carole Wilson.

"Yes, absolutely," she said with a huge smile. "I'm a smiler!" she laughed.

Across town in Franklin Township schools, Superintendent Flora Reichanadter isn't smiling or laughing when she talks about ISTEP.

"I'm frustrated. I feel badly." she said "It's a good possibility my teachers and students are going to experience some of the same things that happened last year."

Last year, widespread computer glitches disrupted the exam taken by almost half a million students. One in three couldn't sign on, were kicked off or had to retake portions of the exam.

Test provider CTB/McGraw Hill took responsibility for the vast majority of the problems. Since then the company and schools have upgraded and tested their systems.

In Franklin Township, information technology workers with the school district worked with their counterparts at McGraw Hill to run test after test. The superintendent says only one went completely right.

"Everything we've turned into them shows there is nothing wrong with our servers, our bandwidth or firewall," Reichanadter said.

Along with frustration, Reichanadter worries other schools are in the same dilemma but aren't aware of it.

"Either they are not having the same problem at the same magnitude as we are, or they don't recognize it yet," she warned.

Since last year, CTB/McGraw Hill has endured a public beating for the testing problems. Since then, a spokesman says the company has upgraded its systems.

Indiana has its own cluster of computer servers. This year, the state isn't sharing computer resources with other states. In five months, CTB has run 52 tests, intentionally overloading the system and fixing problems that turned up.

Franklin Township is still working on its problems and looking forward to an upcoming practice test day that will put both the students and the system to the test.