Many questions remain following this spring’s ISTEP testing errors, which interrupted at least 78,000 Hoosier students. Though all students were eventually able to complete the test, the technical problems have left educators, families and lawmakers concerned about the validity of the scores.
I share these concerns and am troubled by the increased turmoil our students faced this year during an already stressful test. These problems are unacceptable and need to be carefully reviewed, because our students deserve better.
The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has hired the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (NCIEA) to analyze whether the testing interruptions experienced by Hoosier students this year invalidated their scores. This review will take four to five weeks to complete.
In concert with this third-party study, the Indiana Legislative Council has tasked a committee of lawmakers with taking a comprehensive look at the ISTEP errors and our plan moving forward. The first of these hearings was held recently.
State lawmakers met and heard testimony from CTB/McGraw-Hill, the company that administers our ISTEP tests across the state. Company representatives explained that the interruptions were caused by an error on the company’s servers.
The IDOE has announced that it plans to recoup money paid to CTB/McGraw-Hill under its contract with the state. Additionally, the state will have the opportunity to seek a new testing vendor when its contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill expires next year.
Committee members also heard testimony from school administrators and teachers who experienced the glitches first-hand and were able to provide valuable insight on the effects they had on students.
While this hearing provided legislators with vital information, our review is not yet complete. The second committee meeting will be held after the results from the NCIEA’s study are in. At that point, committee members and the IDOE will look at their recommendations and come up with a solution going forward.
I encourage any superintendent, educator or member of the general public to attend the next hearing and offer input. The ISTEP test is incredibly important to our education system and helps us ensure our students are getting adequately trained with the skills needed to excel in college and the workforce. We cannot afford to have inconsistencies and errors in our testing.
In addition, school performance and improvement grades, as well as performance funding for teachers, are partly based on the test results each school receives. If this year’s scores are not accurate, we need to know so they do not impact these critical measures.
It is my hope this summer’s hearings and the third-party review will provide us with more answers and a clear direction for the future so that Indiana can make the best decision for Hoosier students. Stay in contact by emailing me at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov or calling 800-382-9467.