The Washington Times-Herald

May 1, 2013

Problems plauge ISTEP testing

By Nate Smith
Washington Times-Herald

WASHINGTON — Widespread problems on the ISTEP+ test were reported statewide Monday and Tuesday and local schools were no exception.

All schools statewide were told to stop testing Tuesday, according to a release from the state Department of Education. The glitches in the state’s online test has caused headaches for Washington and Barr-Reeve schools, who suspended testing as the state recommended.

North Daviess schools did not test on Monday and were finished with their testing before the rule was handed down.

Children in grades three through eight are taking the online-based portion of the test this week, but the test’s vendor is kicking students off the test.

“It was inconsistent within a given building,” Washington Superintendent Daniel Roach said. “Each building had its own problems.”

According to the Associated Press, Indiana Department of Education officials said 27,000 students were affected. The testing contractor, CTB McGraw-Hill LLC of Carol Stream, Ill., said it was working to resolve the problem.

Most of the problems reported were denials of service to state testing servers, causing testing screens to freeze. The denials caused students to lose previous answers and continuously log on, the Associated Press reported.

Tuesday, local educators reported everything was working well then at 11 a.m., the same problems that happened Monday reoccurred.

“I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for a second consecutive day,” state Superintendent of Instruction Glenda Ritz said. “Like all Hoosier parents, students and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.”

Due to scheduling and the lack of computer labs, the window to finish the online portion of the ISTEP is very tight. Barr-Reeve Superintendent Travis Madison said to get all the students time with the online ISTEP, they had to make elaborate scheduling plans. Now, with two days of testing scrapped, they will have to figure out contingencies.

Earlier this year, Washington schools were denied a waiver from the online test due to a perceived lack of computers. Through moving schedules and computers, Washington believed it had solved the problem.

Roach said Tuesday they will continue to work through the situation hopefully without delays. The state Department of Education told schools they can have three more days to complete the exam.

But Roach questioned how well students can do when the test provided by the state does not work as originally planned. The ISTEP tests are high stakes because of school grades and now teacher evaluations hang on how the students do.

“How many times can they be kicked off and still give their best effort?” Roach said. “It is something that will have to be discussed.”