Indiana education officials grapple with how to deal with ISTEP testing problems

Computer problems wane in 3rd attempt

INDIANAPOLIS - Few issues were reported Wednesday as Indiana students again attempted to take the ISTEP test after two days of problems that the State Board of Education acknowledged were difficult.

The Indiana Department of Education told schools to cut student load by half after computer issues ground the system to a halt on Monday and Tuesday.

As of 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, more than 300,000 testing session had been completed statewide, the IDOE said. Schools were asked to maintain a reduced testing load Wednesday.

Many board members are angry about the problems, offering up searing comments about CTB/McGraw-Hill, the vendor Indiana uses to administer its tests, calling the first two days of testing "frustrating," "embarrassing" and "disastrous."

Superintendent Glenda Ritz said the vendor didn't have enough servers to handle testing in Indiana and Oklahoma, which is also in a testing period.

A DOE source told RTV6 that the vendor had not cleared adequate amounts of data off the servers from other states that had recently taken the test.

Ritz said the priority is to get the test taken and then figure out to handle possibly damaged data.

"We'll be meeting with CTB. We'll be talking about validity of the questions. That's a prime concern. It is a very high-stakes test in Indiana," Ritz said. "And so we have to be very concerned about that and make sure that we can ascertain the validity of the actual student assessments."
Other board members said they believe the data is hopelessly tainted because of what students went through.

"All of a sudden, we're down, and these kids were watching everyone else go to lunch and were saying, 'When do we go to lunch?' and we can say, 'Well, stay focused,'" said board member Michael Pettibone. "But you tell a 13-year-old kid to stay focused sometime. Some kids had to start over with the same questions when the system lost their data. Some students had to start over with new questions."

Officials are also grappling with the impact of having just half the students take the test at a time, because one of the reasons for everyone taking it at once is so early testers don't give the questions to others who haven't taken it.

McGraw-Hill issued a statement on the issues.

"We sincerely apologize to Indiana students, parents, teachers and Superintendent Ritz for this unfortunate situation," the statement read.

The company said it adjusted its system settings and increased hardware to improve performance.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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