The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

State News

June 22, 2013

Indiana seeks $614K for standardized testing problems

INDIANAPOLIS — The superintendent of Indiana's public schools announced she would seek more than $614,000 in damages from CTB/McGraw-Hill, the same day company President Ellen Haley apologized to lawmakers for failures in online standardized tests that caused chaos at the end of the school year.

Superintendent Glenda Ritz said the money she's seeking would cover fines laid out in the state's $95 million contract with the testing company and pay for an independent review of the test's validity and improved reporting data. Department of Education staff said the fines could easily grow to millions of dollars.

Indiana's troubles have punctuated a nationwide shift from pencil-and-paper tests to online exams. Troubles earlier this year disrupted high-stakes testing in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota and Oklahoma. A bank of "overwhelmed" servers in New Jersey caused students in Oklahoma and Indiana to be consistently booted from the online test over two days at the end of April, McGraw-Hill executives said Friday.

"The consequences of CTB's server failures were real and significant for Indiana schools," Ritz said in a news release issued before McGraw Hill executives spoke to lawmakers.

A penitent Haley stood before legislators for more than an hour Friday afternoon, answering questions about whether the company underestimated the impact of the test shutdowns and if test results should be considered valid for any of the many high-stakes education formulas they're plugged into around the state.

"Let me begin first, by apologizing to you," she said. "I know it's unacceptable to you. Believe me; it's unacceptable to me, too."

McGraw-Hill employees ran "stress tests" on their servers and the Internet capabilities at schools across the state before signing off on complete transition from paper to online this year. Technicians could not foresee the crush of students taking the test all at once, however, and were forced to quickly add more virtual memory to the servers, she said.

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