Education Lawmakers press testing company for ISTEP answers

Lawmakers press testing company for ISTEP answers

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The Commission on Education held its first meeting Friday, hearing from ISTEP testing provider CTB/McGraw- Hill and superintendents from around the state regarding widespread testing interruptions that occurred earlier this year. Lawmakers pressed CTB/McGraw-Hill President Ellen Haley to respond to questions on why the online testing the company provides prevented nearly 80,000 Hoosier children from completing testing.

The Department of Education weighed in first, noting that Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will continue to move forward with an independent review to verify ISTEP+ test scores.

CTB-McGraw-Hill President Ellen Haley began her testimony with an apology for the glitches that prevented students from completing testing.  According to Haley, technical issues with the company’s computer network were the root cause of testing interruptions. CTB/McGraw-Hill had performed load testing before the statewide exam was to be administered, however the company’s projections did not match actual usage. As a result, some students taking the exam were prevented from participating and, in some cases, asked to answer questions where the correct multiple choice answer had not been loaded. Haley acknowledged that this was the first year in which all students would take the exam online and ensured the company was performing an in-depth review of testing procedures and protocol.

A number of school superintendents from around the state testified to the issues presented by botched testing and how high-stakes testing impacts the educational growth of Hoosier students. A number of school administrators spoke about how students, already anxious over high-stakes testing, were left confused and further frazzled by irregular testing procedures. Administrators also called into question the validity of ISTEP testing results – which are relied on heavily in Indiana as mechanisms to evaluate both teachers and schools – when the company responsible for overseeing that testing struggled to answer questions.

Lawmakers questioned the contract between the state and CTB/McGraw-Hill to provide ISTEP testing services. CTB/McGraw-Hill holds the four-year, $95 million contract to provide testing services to Indiana’s schools, running through June 2014. The contract was awarded in 2011 by then Superintendent of Public instruction Tony Bennett. Department of Education officials noted that the department would hold the company accountable, seeking preliminary damages for the testing interruptions and would pursue further action once additional data becomes available.

The Commission will take up the issue of ISTEP testing again, meeting on July 29 to review the results of the Department of Education’s independent review and to examine the results of the interrupted testing.