INDIANAPOLIS – The testing expert hired by the state to determine the impact of computer problems that plagued the online ISTEP+ assessment said he was surprised by his findings that the computer glitches had no negative impact on student test scores.
Richard Hill, co-founder of the National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment, told the state’s Education Commission on Monday that student scores actually improved this year, despite repeated computer problems that pushed about 80,000 students offline while they were taking the high-stakes assessment test.
Hill said that the vast majority of students who took the test scored as well as they would have had the interruptions never happened.
It wasn’t news that many commission members expected, nor news that was particularly welcomed by Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who hired Hill in June and paid him $53,000 to do the study. Ritz has been critical of the weight given to ISTEP tests; they play a key role in teacher evaluation and compensation, and in the “A to F” rating system that gives a grade to every school in the state. Schools that consistently score poorly are at risk of being taken over by the state, while schools that score well are in line for more state funding.
“I was expecting to find several points lost at all grade levels,” Hill said, after the commission meeting. Instead, after analyzing ISTEP tests taken by all 495,000 students in grades 3 through 8 this spring, he found just the opposite: An across-the-board increase in test scores that almost mirror the increases of the past four years.
“I don’t know what the reaction is going to be,” Hill said of his analysis. “I’m sure it’s going to be one of general disbelief.”
It seemed that way among some commission members Monday, who grilled Hill about how he did his analysis and speculated that some students may have actually benefited by having their tests interrupted, giving them more time to figure out test answers.