FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana Department of Education said it believes
a contractor has fixed the problems that kicked as many as 9,000 students
offline during computerized ISTEP tests last year.
The Department of Education expects about 320,000 students across the state
to take the standardized tests online starting this week — up from about
200,000 students last year when a system error caused some to be logged off
the tests for more than an hour.
Trial runs done this year with contractor CTB/McGraw-Hill have state
officials confident that any new glitches will be due to computer failure or
a school’s inadequate Internet capacity, Wes Bruce, the state department’s
chief assessment officer, told The Journal Gazette for a story Monday.
“We are as bulletproof as we can be, but there will still be students whose
tests are interrupted next week or the week after because of a computer
failure, or a switch in a network that is a little buggy,” Bruce said. “We
don’t want people’s expectations to be too high.”
Last spring’s disruptions didn’t cause any students’ answers to be lost, but
some educators expressed concern that the stress of the experience would
hurt student performance.
Bruce said CTB/McGraw-Hill determined that last year’s problems were caused
by the software, and he said the company spent millions addressing the issue
and implementing an updated quality assurance program that requires two
people to double check any manual work.
The company also reduced its price for services provided last year.
"There were adjustments made for their failure to perform,” Bruce said. “Our
kids in Indiana, their tests got interrupted. That’s not acceptable.”
Bruce said the Department of Education didn’t need to explore using other
vendors because CTB/McGraw-Hill took responsibility for the problems and was
eager to fix them.
CTB/McGraw-Hill said in a statement that it was “confident that the
necessary steps have been taken to ensure the successful administration of
this year’s ISTEP+ program.”
The annual ISTEP test isn’t used in student grades, but scores can affect
state and federal school rankings.
In March, students in grades 3 through 8 took the first round of the test,
which involves essay questions and math problem-solving. Students must take
the second round, which includes the multiple choice portion, before May 9.
Some school officials are still concerned about how many students will be
taking the test with the online system, said Bill Diehl, director of
technology and accountability for the East Allen County Schools.
“Am I worried? Somewhat,” Diehl said. “But I think they’ve beefed things up
and I know that they don’t want a repeat of last year."