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Outside reviewer picked to study ISTEP troubles

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TOM LoBIANCO

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) An outside group is reviewing Indiana's ISTEP+ troubles after computer problems disrupted test-taking for thousands of students last month, Indiana schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz said Monday.

The National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment and its co-founder, Richard Hill, will assess data that's tracked during testing, such as time between answers. The center is expected to take up to five weeks to complete its review.

Tens of thousands of students were thrown off track last month when CTB/McGraw-Hill's servers faltered, causing online state tests to freeze. School officials reported that computer screens froze and many students were forced to log back in repeatedly while taking the test. The company, which is in the middle of a $95 million contract with the state, has said test results will likely be delayed until July.

"Like all Hoosier parents, students and educators, I was extremely frustrated with the alarmingly high volume of test interruptions during Indiana's high stakes test," she said. "These interruptions were simply unacceptable and they call into question the validity of the test scores."

The Department of Education determined the problems affected 78,000 of the 482,000 students who took the test, a far-reaching problem for schools and teachers because of the many ways in which test results are factored into their own assessments and pay.

In the meantime, angry local school administrators have said all the results should be thrown-out. Ritz has not gone that far, but she has said she advised local school leaders they can tamp down the weight of test results when calculating teacher assessment. She also said she will not use invalid or tainted results in determining how a school is graded.

But firmer answers, including whether the state will toss out the results, will have to wait until after the National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment'a is completed, Ritz said.

Hill has worked evaluating standardized tests throughout the nation over the last two decades. His review will be separate from McGraw-Hill's review and is expected to cost roughly $53,000.

Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he is supporting the independent review and called the wait for a report "reasonable." Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger announced the union's support for the review, also.

House and Senate leaders announced plans last month to investigate the test troubles this month, but that panel has yet to meet on the issue.

 

 

Posted 6/10/2013