ISTEP report: Glitches had no 'measurable' impact on test scores

Glenda Ritz

There's a new report out on ISTEP scores, and it's likely to surprise students, parents and teachers. The impact of this year's computer glitches and botched testing isn't what many expected.

Spinning hourglasses on the screens and locked up computers disrupted ISTEP exams given to nearly one in three students earlier this year. That's 143,000 children.

Despite delays lasting minutes, hours or days, an independent analysis found "the interruptions had no negative impact on student scores for the vast majority of students."

Richard Hill of The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment was hired to do the review. He explained to lawmakers, "The net impact of the interruptions was nil. Students scored about as well as they would have had no interruptions occurred."

The report also said the "exact impact of interruptions at the individual, classroom and teacher level cannot be ascertained."

Lawmakers on the Commission for Education surprisingly learned that test scores improved, some significantly.

Math scores are up in five grades, down in one. English Language Arts score are higher in three grades, down in two and the same in one.

Hill offered one explanation.

"An obstacle was thrown in the way of school people and students and they found a way to overcome it," he said.

ISTEP is a high stakes exam given to elementary and middle school children. Results determine whether students are held back, how their schools are graded and their teachers evaluated.

Commission Co-Chair Representative Robert Behning, (R) Indianapolis, is now convinced the results are accurate.

"It shows we have a statistically valid test to use for assessment this year," he said.

Although statewide scores appear unaffected, the analysis concluded the scores of individual students may have suffered.

Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, told lawmakers, "You look at Lawrence Township who had 47-percent disruptions, they may look at this differently than a district that had two-percent disruptions."

The state's school superintendent says invalid test results won't be used when grading schools. She's giving administrators leeway to minimize ISTEP scores when evaluating teachers and setting their salaries.

What's next? Parents and schools should receive their student's test results by the end of August.

CTB/McGraw-Hill, the testing company whose computers were overwhelmed by the test taking load, is completing its own study. It should be done in about a week.

The Department of Education is also negotiating a settlement with the company as compensation for all the problems. The financial agreement would likely include the estimated $53,600 cost of the state's analysis.

Read the full report here.

Check here to see a map of schools affected.