Indiana school districts administering the state's required standardized test are encountering problems again as students try to access the online test.
Schools in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and the Lafayette area reported technical issues with the ISTEP+ exam Tuesday. The issues follow similar problems Monday that affected 27,000 students and forced many schools to suspend testing.
Some school officials say they're worried that the problems will affect scores and give an inaccurate picture of how well students are doing.
The Indianapolis Star reports this is the third straight year that students in grades three through eight taking the online portion of the exam have encountered problems.
WANE-TV in Fort Wayne says state officials have extended the deadline to complete the testing.
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The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation says it has suspended ISTEP testing in all of its schools for a second straight day due to the computer glitches that are causing problems around the state.
After suspending testing Monday around noon because of connectivity issues and error messages, Susan McDowell Riley, the EVSC's Deputy Superintendent for Accountability and Academic Affairs, says early Tuesday morning testing was going fairly well. She says around 10:30, however, schools started experiencing a slow down.
"It is definitely a concern. First of all, it changes the schedule. We are tightly scheduled and so the state has added additional days onto the testing window to allow for that. But the other concern, of course, is the frustration that the students and the staff feel. And we have shared that concern that we have with the Indiana Department of Education," McDowell Riley said.
According to McDowell Riley, the Indiana Department of Education is looking into EVSC test results that have been recorded so far to see if they can be considered valid. These results are so important, McDowell Riley says, for a few reasons. First, they allow the corporation to see if students have mastered state standards. She says the testing is also used for accountability.
"Schools now receive a letter grade A through F based on how they're doing performance-wise. That is based on performance on ISTEP. And now in many places in Indiana, teachers are being paid based on their students' performance on ISTEP. So it's so critical that our ISTEP scores are valid and they are a true representation of what our students, the skills they have mastered, because these scores are used in many different ways in terms of accountability," said McDowell Riley.
This is the first year for ISTEP testing to be online for all grades in the EVSC.
As of late Tuesday morning, McDowell Riley said a number of other school corporations had also suspended testing for the day.
Schools across the state are using ISTEP services provided by vendor CTB.
In response to system errors that prevented schools throughout the state from completing their ISTEP+ testing today, Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction issued the following statement:
"I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for the second consecutive day. Like all Hoosier parents, students and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.
"We have been constantly monitoring the situation this morning. Between approximately 7:30 and 11:00 over 150,000 test sessions were completed. At approximately 11:15 AM, there was a spike in test interruptions.
"Because of these errors, I have instructed the Department of Education to suspend testing for the remainder of the day. This decision was not made lightly, but was done to minimize further disruptions for our schools. All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable.
"At this time, CTB McGraw-Hill believes that testing will be able to continue tomorrow. I will communicate with schools directly regarding the timeframe to resume testing.
"The Indiana Department of Education is working with the company that administers the test to ensure that the rest of the test is administered smoothly and efficiently. We will also conduct a thorough review to determine the exact cause of this issue. Finally, we will also work with local schools so that they have the time they need to administer a fair test for all Hoosier students."
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