The Herald Bulletin

September 10, 2013

Editorial: ISTEP glitches are frustrating


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Indiana students took their ISTEP tests last spring.

Hoosiers are still wondering about the results.

And answers didn’t come Monday to the general population although the outcomes were available online to districts and parents.

However, many school officials couldn’t access the results as the website was overloaded.

The case of the ISTEP glitches has been a debacle.

A report released in July found about 80,000 students in third through eighth grade had at least one part of the statewide standardized test interrupted when server glitches from CTB McGraw-Hill kicked them offline. That’s about 16 percent of all Indiana students who took the test.

For example, 458 Anderson Community Schools students — or 16 percent of those taking the test — were kicked offline. All Madison County districts were affected: 435 students in South Madison schools (21 percent); Frankton-Lapel, 154 students (12 percent); Elwood, 65 students (9 percent), and Alexandria, 40 students (6 percent).

An independent testing expert hired by the state determined that the interruptions had little effect on the scores, but still recommended that 1,400 results be tossed to avoid tainting the other test scores.

In July, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said, “The problems with the ISTEP+ contractor were absolutely unacceptable. Every student deserves the opportunity to take a fair and uninterrupted assessment.”

McGraw-Hill admitted mistakes on its part. But then the Indiana Department of Workforce Development hired CTB/McGraw-Hill to administer an exam called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion — essentially a high school equivalency test.

Giving a contract to the same company that botched a major assessment sounds like a move where one agency was unaware of another’s problems. All of this makes Hoosiers wary of standardized testing in Indiana.

To correct the mistrust of this process, the Indiana Department of Education should have released ISTEP results publicly on Monday and not piecemeal them out. Indeed, districts and parents struggled to access the scores online. And with the possibility of districts appealing the results, it may be weeks before Hoosiers see the final scores.

The frustrations are growing.

In summary Trouble accessing ISTEP results added to the history of glitches this year.