Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

'This Has To Be Fixed': What They're Saying After Two Days Of ISTEP+ Glitches

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A teacher at Carpe Diem charter school in Indianapolis helps a student complete a lesson on the computer.

Monday and Tuesday, in a word?

“Travesty,” blogs education software engineer Brian Bennett, a former teacher:

Let’s compare this to paper-and-pencil testing for a moment. Students were booted out of the test, at times in the middle of reading a passage, and not allowed to log back in. Officials are saying testing will resume as normal on Tuesday and Wednesday. How do you expect a child, who is already feeling immense anxiety over the test, to have valid results?

In essence, this would be like a teacher taking a testing booklet from students at random during testing, and then having them continue the next day. With no warning, with no explanation.

This is a travesty.

[Test provider CTB/]McGraw Hill, on the other hand, has sanctions worked into the contract, but officials have not levied penalties at all in any of the three failures of service.

But Tony Bennett said Tuesday he felt CTB was responsive to issues that arose in 2010 and 2011.

WIBC’s Ray Steele called Bennett, who was state superintendent during the beginning of Indiana’s contract with the test provider. Bennett told Steele:

We had minimal interruptions in 2012, in large part due to a collaboration between the department, our staff, and CTB/McGraw Hill…

We had some issues in 2010, we had significant issues in 2011. Like I said, CTB was very prompt in their response, very appropriate in their response. We made sure that we had appropriate load tests and the type of information that we needed so that when we went to administration in 2012, we did really experience minimal interruptions. I don’t want to give you the impression we had absolutely no interruptions, but they were minimal interruptions, they didn’t cause any kind of large distraction… We did have to take a very strong look at the impact that the interruptions had on students scores and the validation of students’ scores in 2011.

Listen to the full interview on WIBC’s site, including Bennett describing his belief in having a backup plan — “a paper and pencil option.”

And then there’s this from the Lafayette Journal & Courier editorial pages:

Since testing went online in 2011, ISTEP time has been marred by instances of computer downtime. That’s not going to cut it.

Indiana has a four-year, $95 million with CTB/McGraw Hill to administer the tests through 2014. The contract includes a clause that requires the company to provide uninterrupted computer availability every school day during the testing window, plus the two weeks leading up to it.

In a school reform climate that puts a premium on accountability and measurable results, the state’s testing methods aren’t stacking up.

This has to be fixed.

And for levity’s sake:

How did you experience the ISTEP+ glitches Monday and/or Tuesday? Were you in the testing rooms? Did your kids recount the experience? Drop us a line (or a Tweet) or leave a comment below.


  • Mouse Rat

    Schools are starting to petition the DOE for paper testing, en masse.

    Why aren’t contract-mandated fines being assessed against CTB/McGraw-Hill?

    And why is the DOE going along with the “50% solution”?

    Is it really feasible to have 50% of the students testing and the others not? Don’t they realize that schedules had to be worked out and stretched in many cases to make online ISTEP testing possible? Computer labs normally devoted to instruction had to be used for testing, elementary students had to be sent to high schools for testing, etc., etc.

    Cancel the contract.

    Assess maximum fines.

    And either do online assessment in-house, or go back to pencil and paper.

    • Mouse Rat

      Oh, and Mr. Stokes?

      Can you get anyone at the DOE to talk to you about their decision-making process, to explain their actions during this mess? All I keep seeing are quotes from the mass releases to schools. Is it compounded by political factors, such as disagreements between Tony Bennett holdovers and new appointees?

      The ISTEP contract for CTB/McGraw Hill has detailed contact information and project assignments for both DOE people and CTB people. Are they all mum?

      • kystokes

        Thanks for your comments. I’m putting up a post in a bit that should give you a flavor of how the State Board feels about a lot of this.

        I’m talking with the DOE to try and get as much information as they have. We still have to get through today, and if there’s another calamity, that puts off aftermath reporting for, again, another day. Ritz is having a media availability later today — your questions are good ones… 50%, decision to proceed, contract, etc.

        Note also: I’m going to San Francisco later today on a planned trip. I’ll do my best to continue reporting en route.

        • Mouse Rat

          Thanks again for your reporting… Mizzou can be proud of you but we are well served to have you in Indiana right now. Have a safe trip to SF.

          The negative economic and social impact on the schools — administrators, teachers, students and parents, all of them — seems beyond measure at this point, and the response from the DOE and state legislators, when all is said and done, needs to measure up.

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