Both CTB/McGraw Hill,the testing company, and Superintendent Glenda Ritz reported no problems with online ISTEP exams Wednesday after tens of thousands of students Monday and Tuesday could not complete their tests.
Martinsville Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Gerry Sanders says the problems in his district varied.
“At some schools the students were completely locked out or in some cases the computers froze. In other instances there was quite a lengthy wait time between questions,” Sanders says.
The ISTEP testing schedule has been extended for three days to make up for the lost time. Under guidance from Ritz, schools reduced their testing load to 50 percent.
So if, for instance, a school had scheduled two grades to take the exams, only one would. Ritz says that could continue beyond Wednesday.
“And so we’re going to operate under the 50 percent load to be sure that we’re not going to interruptions and get good information from the students on the assessments that they’re taking,” she says.
Ritz says the state and the testing company are constantly monitoring what’s being described as a “fluid situation.”
“They did several fixes last night so we may, at some point, say, ‘Hey, we think that we can handle full load,’ and go back to that capacity,” she says.
But if schools continue at 50 percent capacity, the three days of extended testing will not be enough, and with both the end of the school years approaching and other exams like End of Course Assessments approaching, the window of opportunity is shrinking.
Members of the State Board have been questioning the validity of the ISTEP+ tests, which Ritz points out, play a major role in school performance grades and teacher accountability.
“We’ll be meeting with CTB, we’ll be talking about validity of the questions,” she says. “That is a prime concern. It is a very high stakes test in Indiana.”
Parents have similar concerns. Megan Mahaffey’s three kids are taking the test at Highland Park Elementary School in Bloomington. She worries about the affect the disruption this week is going to have on the testing process.
“When you sit down and you think you’re getting ready to start a test and you’ve kind of got your body prepared for that and your mind prepared for that and then it doesn’t work,” Mahaffey says. “I can see that being really stressful for a student, but we’re just kinda trying to play it by ear.”
The state superintendent says she has not investigated whether CTB may have breached its contract with the state but will be looking into those issues after student assessments are complete.