INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana’s top Statehouse leaders all agree they’d like
some answers from CTB/McGraw-Hill on the ISTEP+ failures, and they could get
some as soon as the end of the week.
A legislative panel studying why 78,000 test-takers were frozen out of the
high-stakes exam test last month plans to meet Friday to hear from CTB/McGraw-Hill
President Ellen Haley on what went wrong. Schools Superintendent Glenda
Ritz, meanwhile, plans an outside review determining the validity of the
test results. That could be completed within a month.
Both are aimed at finding out how the state’s can’t-fail test failed.
“Obviously, we want some answers from CTB/McGraw-Hill. That is our greatest
concern right now,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.
“Going forward, are we in danger of having this happen again? Is it the
vendor’s fault? Why did it happen? And what can be done to avoid it in the
future? How did it impact the kids at the different levels?”
He said the range of possible solutions includes “going back to pencil and
paper to changing vendors and modernizing and getting a better system, if
that’s what it takes. ... But one thing we know is what happened can’t be
Nobody’s ready just yet to dump McGraw-Hill, which has a four-year, $95
million contract to provide the test. Nor is anyone ready to revert to paper
and pencil. But the frustration has provided a bit of unity in a building
where Republican lawmakers recently joined forces to hand Republican Gov.
Mike Pence his first veto override last week.
“We have to hold our vendor accountable. It’s important that every vendor of
the state provide the services that have been contracted in a timely and
effective way, and we want to understand what happened with regard to the
ISTEP testing,” Pence said.
The broad strokes of the troubles have been well-reported by this point. The
state’s critically important standardized test stalled amid server troubles
from McGraw-Hill, which apparently could not handle the crush of online
test-takers. But the “how” has yet to be fully explained, and how to make
sure it doesn’t happen again has not been determined.
Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he’s hoping Friday’s
hearing will give lawmakers and the public a chance to hear firsthand about
the frustrations and angst caused by testing glitches and the company’s
explanation for why it happened.
“It’ll be interesting to hear her presentation,” he said of Haley.
The clock is running on answers. Teacher assessments and school grades must
be completed in the coming months. Ritz has already advised local leaders to
consider reducing the weight that test results carry in teacher assessments
and said she will not use invalid test results to determine where schools
fall on the state’s"A-F” scale.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has led many of the education
changes in recent years that have given increased importance to the ISTEP
results. But he, too, has supported Ritz in her handling of the problem.
“They’re totally appropriate under the circumstances, and of course the
weight that the tests are given in teacher evaluations is a local matter and
allows locals flexibility to plug that in in a way they think is
appropriate,” he said.
Kruse said McGraw-Hill should probably pay the cost of the DOE study and
also pay some fines to the state. A second hearing of the study committee is
expected after the test results are submitted and the DOE report is
completed. But solutions will wait until after state leaders have had their
first bite at this apple.