Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

ISTEP kicks students offline in the middle of the test again

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) A computer glitch kicked thousands of Indiana students offline for a third straight day while they were taking the online version of the state's standardized achievement test.

An Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman called the problem with the ISTEP test unacceptable, while testing vendor CTB McGraw Hill said it was working around the clock to resolve the issue.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Wednesday's outages, which lasted from five to 15 minutes, might have affected as many as 10,000 students statewide who were taking the multiple-choice portion of ISTEP online.

"We think this is unacceptable, and we're pretty frustrated," Stephanie Sample, Department of Education communications director, told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne. "We hold schools accountable, and we're going to hold the vendor accountable, too."

CTB McGraw Hill spokeswoman Mary Skafidas said she did not know the problem's cause and would not speculate on when it would be resolved.

"We have been working around the clock, and we will continue to do so until the problem is solved," she said.

About 200 East Allen County Schools students and about 1,000 Northwest Allen County students were affected by the glitch Wednesday, district officials said. Fifth graders and eighth graders in Fort Wayne schools also were affected by the outages this week.

Officials said no scores were altered by the interruptions. But Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel was skeptical.

"Each time that happens, it makes it harder to concentrate," Himsel told The Journal Gazette. "I would disagree with anyone who says it would have no impact on scores."

But Fort Wayne schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman said most teachers and students seemed to take the glitch in stride.

"Interruptions happen in life," she said. "But we were not thrilled that this continued to happen three days in a row, especially when these are high-stake tests."

This year's online test is a pilot project aimed at expanding online administration of ISTEP. About 200,000 students in grades 3-8 are believed to be taking the test online through next Wednesday. The state asked every school to test at least one grade level online unless they had technical barriers that prevented them from doing so.

Though state officials said most interruptions were five minutes or less, Indianapolis Wayne Township Schools spokeswoman Mary McDermott Lang said some students were unable to log back in for more than an hour and one student couldn't complete the test.

"We had schools where everybody was booted out and some where as few as three students booted out. The main concern is the accuracy of the results," she said.

Cynthia Roach, who oversees testing for Indianapolis Public Schools, said some students were logged out for nearly an hour. She said IPS is gathering information so it can seek a review of the results.

"The kids are nervous about the test anyway," she said. "Some will just roll with it, but others, I don't know. It's imperative that we ask for a review of the results."

The problems raise questions at a time when test data are becoming more important to schools, which already are judged under the federal No Child Left Behind law and given state ratings based on how students perform. A bill passed this week by the Indiana General Assembly requires student test score growth to be a part of teacher evaluations that will be used to determine whether they receive pay raises.

"It could affect merit-based pay," McDermott Lang said. "If scores aren't accurate, how do we use that as an assessment?"

But state Superintendent Tony Bennett said there is no reason to doubt the results in spite of the glitches. The online exam saves students' work and their scores and allows them to resume where they left off.

"We all have to acknowledge, no matter how much people are worried, that assessments in the 21st century are going to be driven with technology, and we have to work through these issues and set an expectation we are going to be able to do this," he said.

 

Posted 4/28/2011

 

 

 

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