ISTEP+ scores improve despite testing glitches
Last week, the Commission on Education had its second meeting at the Statehouse where we heard from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Dr. Richard Hill from the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment regarding ISTEP+ (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress—Plus) results. The Commission on Education is one of the summer study committees I wrote about a few weeks back that is critical to education policy moving forward, and the application of ISTEP+ is a vital component to gauging student and teacher progress.
As many of you are aware, schools throughout Indiana experienced problems with the online portion of the exam as CTB/McGraw-Hill (CTB), the provider and administrator of the test was dealing with server glitches that affected thousands of Hoosier students. It was vital that Dr. Hill be hired to review the scores and ensure the integrity and fairness of the test as the results help determine how a student is progressing and how effectively the subject matter is being taught in the classroom.
Hoosier students in grades three through eight take the ISTEP+ exam every year. Since 2009, Indiana has worked to transition to online testing from the previous paper-and-pencil form. During the most recent ISTEP+ testing, approximately 95 percent of Indiana students took the test on-line, up from 71 percent the previous year.
Dr. Hill presented us with the analysis of the impact from the interruptions during the 2013 ISTEP+ testing which started on Monday, April 29 and concluded May 12. Shortly after testing began, Hoosier students began experiencing interruptions in the testing, including paused screens and being booted out of the system. The problem was reported to CTB, who found that the problem was caused by a memory issue on their servers. They were able to correct the issue after a few days.
While the problem was fixed, there were still serious concerns about the impact these interruptions had on students’ ability to perform. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction and members of the General Assembly worked to have the results thoroughly analyzed so that we knew what steps needed to be taken to properly resolve this issue and help ensure it didn’t happen again.
I am happy to report that the analysis presented to the commission last week showed that while the interruptions were extremely frustrating for both students and teachers, there was no measurable impact on the results of the tests. Students interrupted while taking the test did not have scores that negatively reflected that impact. In fact, Indiana schools on a whole performed better on the ISTEP+ testing than they had in the previous year. The analysis pointed to the continued diligent work of the students and teachers, during the interruptions, to stay on track as the main reason that Hoosier schools surpassed their previous scores.
It was great to hear that despite the bump in the road for students, they were able to handle the situation and improve their scores. With this, we still must hold CTB accountable for their mistakes. The Department of Education is working to reach a settlement with CTB to compensate the state for their errors. As we move forward with ISTEP+ testing online, there will be rigorous tests done to make sure that the servers can handle the amount of students, preventing this problem from reoccurring.
I want to sincerely thank the teachers in our community for continuing to do an excellent job even though the ISTEP+ testing did not go as planned. Hoosier students have a leg up on anyone else in other states because they have some of the greatest teachers guiding them in the classroom. As a member of the Indiana General Assembly, I will continue to support legislation that will help Hoosier students and teachers. I am looking forward to working together with teachers in our community to craft legislation for this upcoming session.