ISTEP woes eyed at public hearing at Indiana Statehouse

CTB/McGraw-Hill to explain what caused glitch

INDIANAPOLIS - The company that administers the ISTEP test to thousands of Indiana children will explain what went wrong when computer glitches caused schools to suspend testing in April.

State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz is seeking $614,000 in damages from CTB/McGraw-Hill for testing troubles that disrupted the exams for nearly 80,000 students last month.

Ritz said Friday she is seeking $400,000 for fines covered in the company's $95 million contract with the state. The additional money would pay for an independent review of the testing data underway and better reporting data.

McGraw-Hill company President Ellen Haley said inadequate virtual memory caused students to be kicked off the system, inadequate server memory on the first day and inadequate software memory on the second day.

She said this happened because this was the first year Indiana students all took the test online and the system didn't behave as it had when engineers tested it prior to the first day of ISTEP.

"So we immediately put engineers on this to try to figure out what is happening. And it became pretty clear right away that the backend servers that we have, the  virtual servers, didn't have enough memory. They were becoming overwhelmed by the demand of the students taking the test that first day. And so we added additional virtual memory, and that resolved the problem on Monday," Haley said.

Haley apologized profusely for the problems and said the problems were unacceptable.

The apology wasn't enough for one superintendent.

"It wasn't a two-day fix. We were involved in testing for over three weeks. And on the next-to-the-last day of testing, we had to have shipped to us overnight four tests for four students in our own district who were never able to log on," said Wendy Robinson, Fort Wayne Superintendent.

CTB/McGraw-Hill is currently under contract to administer the test next year, but that could change if they can't reassure lawmakers they won't have problems with computers freezing and kids not being able to log in.

The Indiana Department of Education also cited past problems with the testing system in 2011 when there were several days in which students taking the test were knocked offline. At the time, an IDOE spokesperson called the problem "unacceptable."

The ISTEP hearing began at 1 p.m. in the Senate chamber at the statehouse.

Hoosiers unable to attend the hearing will be able to watch it online here (mobile users ) .


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