Following the statewide problems associated with the 2013 CTB McGraw-Hill’s administration of the ISTEP+ this past spring, the Indiana Department of Education has released findings as to the validity of the test results of schools affected by continual server interruptions. Though many schools systems, such as Warsaw Community School Corporation, reported a belief that the interruptions negatively affected students’ scores (see related), the state has stated that, according to a third party investigator, the average negative impact on scores was not measurable.
This year a total of 482,000 students completed the ISTEP+ examination. However, according to officials, 78,000 students were online taking the exam when server issues caused delays. These delays included interruptions that continually booted students taking the online exam from their test causing a continued start and stop to test taking efforts.
According to many schools throughout the state, the repeated interruptions that ensued as a result of these issues were believed to have potentially negatively impacted thousands of students scores throughout the state. Because of this belief, the IDOE contracted an independent third party, Dr. Richard Hill of the National Center for the Improvement of Education Assessment, to investigate the validity of the test results.
“(The server issues) have caused problems,” said Dr. Craig Hintz, superintendent of WCS following initial contact with the IDOE in June. “Warsaw Community Schools was requested by the IDOE to indicate students who were affected. It was difficult to provide an accurate assessment, however, we have determined that all students were affected one way or another.”
According to Hill, however, because of the efforts of teachers, administrators, students and parents, as well as the “swift and decisive actions” taken by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, the average negative statewide impact on scores was not measurable. Hill states however that this does not mitigate the effect the interruptions had on students, parents and teachers throughout Indiana. Hill concluded that at this time, the exact impact of the interruptions at the classroom, teacher and individual levels cannot be ascertained.
In a press release supplied by the IDOE, Hill stated, “First, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of Indiana students, parents, teachers, administrators and the employees of the Department of Education,” said Superintendent Ritz. “Because of their dedication and hard work, the impact of these interruptions was limited. However, let me be clear, the problems with the ISTEP+ contractor were absolutely unacceptable. Every student deserves the opportunity to take a fair and uninterrupted assessment.”
Ritz, who was the party responsible for the hiring of Hill, also stated that though the state average score did not appear to be affected by the server problems associated with the ISTEP+, it is impossible to know for certain how students would have tested should the interruptions not have occurred.
“I have spent the last several months talking with Hoosiers about the impact these interruptions had in the classroom. Although Dr. Hill’s report found that the statewide average score was not affected by the interruptions, there is no doubt that thousands of Hoosier students were affected. As Dr. Hill stated in his report, ‘We cannot know definitively how students would have scored this spring if the interruptions had not happened.’ Because of this, I have given local schools the flexibility they need to minimize the effect these tests have on various matters, such as teacher evaluation and compensation. I have also instructed CTB McGraw-Hill to conduct enhanced stress and load testing to ensure that their servers are fully prepared for next year’s test and ensure that this never happens again.”
Though the ISTEP+ test result disruptions affecting teacher bonuses and evaluations has been a concern for several schools throughout the state, Hintz assured WCS will not allow this year’s test results to negatively impact staff. According to him, the teacher evaluation program implemented this year was in the first year of a pilot stage. Though negotiations on the WCS compensation model are ongoing, Hintz noted ISTEP+ results will not be utilized in determining which teachers will receive bonuses and evaluations this year.
The IDOE is continuing an ongoing negotiation regarding the settlement with CTB McGraw-Hill (see related). The preliminary damages amount sought will not be less than $613,600 and could reasonably go into the millions. That amount includes $400,000 in liquidated damages provided for in the contract between the Department of Education and CTB. It also includes $53,600 that the Department will spend to have a third party conduct an analysis of the scores of students that had their testing sessions interrupted and at least $160,00 for other related costs associated with enhanced reporting data. In addition to the preliminary damages, additional damages may be sought after further investigation.
Following the settlement, the next steps for the Department include processing student reports to be available online to parents and students, and calculating A-F accountability results.