Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indiana Education Panel On ISTEP+ Problems: 'This Is Disastrous'

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz leads a study session at a meeting of the State Board of Education.

Members of the executive panel that oversees Indiana education echoed the frustrations of teachers and local school officials after two straight days of widespread problems for students taking ISTEP+ exams online.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz kicked off the State Board of Education’s study session Wednesday with discussion of the issues as schools statewide were resuming testing, although on a limited schedule. Here are a few of the comments on the problems with ISTEP+ testing board members made during Wednesday morning’s study session:

Dan Elsener: “Because of the impact to so many people, and leadership’s responsibility when we do evaluated. I want to know what the department can do, what the schools are going to have to have in terms of training. Our vendor, we want to evaluate that too, but we have to look at all parties — not for blame, but this is disastrous. Our educators need better leadership on this thing.”

B.J. Watts: “The data we’re going to get is tainted, no question about it… If this were data that I were taking in my classroom to inform my instruction, I’d throw it out.”

Mike Pettibone: “Our teachers — and everyone knows this — that we’ve created a little bit of anxiety this year. It’ll be interesting to watch this unfold to see the validity of these tests.”

(ALSO READ — CTB/McGraw Hill’s latest statement)

David Shane: “This is not the time an entity has used assumptions for the amount of usage and the amount of capacity and been wrong. I’m not talking about the legal issues, I just think it would be useful in the process to make sure we understand very clearly what it was in the technology, what it was in the allocation of resources that the system failed so that we don’t next time simply come up with a new set of things for how we’re going to do it and an new set of assumptions and end up with the exact same [problems]. The failure is a technology failure, it’s not a teacher failure or a school failure.”

Jo Blacketor: “We’ve done the due diligence” on the state’s contract with CTB/McGraw Hill. She suggests the company isn’t holding up its end of the contract.

Ritz will hold a media availability following the meeting around noon. We’ll be there. Follow @kystokes and @StateImpactIN on Twitter for the latest developments.


  • Karynb9

    What many “common folk” don’t realize about ISTEP is that it is NOT just about the pass/fail. Some people may look at these “unusual” testing circumstances and think that if kids are truly prepared and truly know the content, they shouldn’t be thrown off by THAT much — a kid who would pass under perfect circumstances will probably also pass under these less-than-perfect circumstances. Sure, they may miss a question or two because of the distractions, but they’ll probably still PASS. You know, I will actually give them that argument — I don’t know that we’ll see massive changes in pass/fail rates.

    However, in many districts’ teacher evaluation systems AND in the state’s A-F school/district grading model, pass/fail on ISTEP is not the end of the story. Even kids who were “Pass+” last year are still expected to demonstrate “growth,” and without that GROWTH, the teacher may lose points on his/her evaluation (and potential compensation in merit-based pay systems) and the school may lose points toward a better grade on the A-F model. Teachers and schools can’t afford to have a student “miss a question or two” due to factors beyond their control, even if the student ends up as a Pass or even Pass+ result on the final roster. It’s about more than just “passing” the test — that kid has to GROW.

  • inteach

    The test results are invalid. You have students who have taken the test having contact with students who have not.

    How can you guarantee that test information will not be shared?

    This test has been corrupted.

    No serious statistician would trust these results.

    • Karynb9

      You also have students who started taking the test on Monday and saw every single question on the test before getting locked-out and not being able to submit the test then, now having the past 48 hours to use calculators/textbooks/friends/etc. to figure out the answers to the problems they weren’t sure about…before they got to go back into the test TODAY and “finish it” (and once you’ve “answered” a question, you CAN go back and change an answer if you want before you submit the entire test).

  • Teresa Wiley

    Nice try Dan Elsner. But you can’t blame Glenda Ritz for this. And as far as leadership – since she actually has administered ISTEP tests in a school as a teacher, she knows how serious this is. The problem is putting so much weight on a system that was not tested, was not vetted properly. This is very typical of the previous administration that charged ahead without thinking things through. It was wrong to roll out the computer testing in one large effort risking very large problems.

    • Clyde Gaw

      This is the Indiana State Board of Education, Former Supt. Bennett, Indiana Republican Legislators and Mitch Daniel’s doing. Supt. Ritz inherited a morass on multiple levels. This is what happens when non-educators in positions of power, set public education policy from the top down.

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