State hires company to review ISTEP results

ISTEP testing was interrupted for two days in late April.
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The Indiana Department of Education has hired a national organization to determine the validity of this spring's interrupted ISTEP+ testing.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said Monday the department hired the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment to look into whether testing delays due to computer glitches invalidated the test scores.

"Like all Hoosier parents, students, and educators, I was extremely frustrated with the alarmingly high volume of test interruptions during Indiana's high stakes test," Ritz said. "These interruptions were simply unacceptable, and they call into question the validity of the testing data. These results have a large effect on schools and communities. School accountability, as well as teacher compensation and evaluation are based, in part, on this data. Because the stakes of this test are so high, the results must be beyond reproach."

The measure of what students are learning, the evaluations and salaries of teachers and the grades given to each Indiana school are riding on the test scores.

"I can't predict anything. I need to know the scores which are going to be looked at," Ritz said.

Ritz said the NCIEA assessment will be done independently from those conducted by CTB McGraw-Hill, the company that administers the ISTEP+ testing. Dr. Richard Hill, co-founder of NCIEA who will conduct the state's review, will also look into any findings by CTB McGraw-Hill.

Thousands of students across Indiana had their testing interrupted on consecutive days April 29-30 due to server problems at CTB McGraw-Hill. Testing was finally completed more than three weeks later.

The Department of Education indicated more than 78,000 students - about 16 percent - were affected by the interruption, but teachers and parents believe that number is higher.

"I honestly am not setting out to change anybody's mind. The perception is that we had a lot of interruptions and that we're going to have problems with test validity, and that's true," Ritz said.

The analysis will look at students' test scores before, during and after the interruption in testing. They may also compare past test scores.

"I would like to see the comparison on what CTB says was an interruption and what was really going on in the classrooms, on those computer monitors," said Teresa Meredith, president-elect of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Schools complain the distractions and frustrations of students waiting on computers to respond, hurrying to finish, and rescheduling test times are not being taken into account.

Franklin Township Schools Superintendent Flora Reichanadter has no faith in the test results.

"No, not at this point, because there are so many factors you cannot measure strictly looking at the amount of time or disruption a student had," she said.

The state says the cost of the independent analysis by NCIEA is not expected to exceed $53,600.