Superintendent calls ISTEP exam trouble "a train wreck"; parents opt out

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Just when it seems like the governor and the state superintendent were on the verge of a compromise on the length of ISTEP testing, some schools are experiencing technical problems with the practice exams.

Students in the West Lafayette Community School District started computerized "stress tests" on Thursday.

"I announced six months ago this was a train wreck waiting to happen, and now here we are. The train wreck is happening. Let's put a stop to this nonsense and let's get back to the business of education," said West Lafayette Superintendent Dr. Rocky Killion.

Killion was named Superintendent of the Year for 2015 by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.

"I predicted two years ago that there would be an ISTEP rebellion eventually in this state and I think we are getting to that tipping point, where enough is enough," Killion said.
 
Killion says students attempted to complete the practice test Thursday but the system eventually crashed at Happy Hollow School.

"Lots of frustration, I had some kids crying, I had some teachers very upset so we just stopped the whole process and sent everybody back to the classroom," Killion said.

The problem, Killion says, worsened when all of the students attempted to access the program at the same time.

"It's inhumane what we are doing to the kids, what we are doing to the educational environment, we lost so much instructional time today, it's ridiculous," Killion said. "I would prefer all of my students' parents withdraw and become home-schooled during ISTEP, and then we can re-enroll them."

Some parents are so fed up with the debate over the ISTEP exam, they have chosen to opt out of the test all together.

"I sent a letter kind of outlining what it was and why I believe what I believe. And I talked about parent choice, I talked about local control, I talked about why we want to practice civil disobedience in this way," said Andie Redwine-Becker, mother of four.

Redwine-Becker's daughters, 10-year-old Valerie and 11-year-old Angelina, spent Thursday afternoon delivering handmade valentines to Statehouse employees. They hoped the cards would ease some of the tension surrounding this year's ISTEP exam.

"Some people don't think they made the right choices. But they still deserve the right amount of love, care," Angelina Becker said.

"Standardized testing is great in a factory setting, but it's not so great when you are trying to judge works of art and we think we have works of art," said Redwine-Becker.

According to the Department of Education, opting out of the exam will not prohibit a student from advancing to the next grade level. However, the department says there are serious consequences for schools such as risks to accountability and federal funding.