News and Tribune

June 1, 2013

No set date for ISTEP results

Problems with the online format affected roughly 70,000 tests

Megan Erbacher
Evansville Courier & Press

EVANSVILLE — It’s important to let parents and guardians know there has been no definitive date from the Indiana Department of Education when ISTEP scores will be released publicly, said Susan McDowell Riley, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. deputy superintendent of accountability and academic affairs.

However, she said the state indicated results would not be released “before sometime in July.”

The focus at the state level, according to Indiana Department of Education press secretary Daniel Altman, is officials working with schools to ensure they have accurate lists of students whose tests were interrupted.

CTB/McGraw-Hill, the vendor hired by the state to administer the test, confirmed that results are anticipated to be released in July. In the past, results for the annual standardized exam have been available in late May before the end of the school year.

At this point it would be premature to assume anything has happened in terms of tests being invalidated, said Daniel Sieger, McGraw-Hill vice president of communications.

“No decisions have been made in terms of invalidation of anything yet,” he said. “Anybody that tells you otherwise is not correct. All that has happened at this point is that we have delivered to the state a list of all the students who had some sort of interruption in their test taking process. Then what happens next is the state is going out and finding a third party company to evaluate, we will also be doing our own evaluation, and then a determination will happen.”

Problems with the online format affected roughly 70,000 tests. In the coming months, a state legislative committee plans to review the troubles. Altman said the education department has begun the process of selecting an independent evaluator to assess the test’s validity.

“There were issues with the screen reader this year,” McDowell Riley said. “For example, after a student provides an answer to a question, the screen reader reads back the answer choice that the student selected ... this year, in some cases, the screen reader was reading back an answer that the student had not selected. We do not know how widespread this situation was because some students may not have reported the issue as they were taking the test.”

Original information provided by the DOE, McDowell Riley explained, stated ISTEP would be administered through 2014, then a new set of academic standards, Common Core, was set to replace the ISTEP assessment with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) for students in grades K-12 that was planned to be administered throughout the school year instead of only each spring when ISTEP is given.

“However, it is now our understanding that this will be delayed until at least the 2015-16 school year while the state proceeds with their study and determination of whether Indiana will move forward with the implementation of the Common Core,” she said.

If ISTEP scores are thrown out, Altman said the DOE will decide how it may or may not affect school districts.

“That’s obviously something that we will be looking at as this process goes through,” he said. “Indiana is a state that does have high stakes testing, and so these results are incredibly important to schools and parents and students and communities. And these can affect evaluations, they can affect our teacher evaluations, they can affect A-F grades, so we’re going to be looking at the effect that can have on schools and seeing what the department can do from a state level.”

According to McDowell Riley, it’s “unknown” if invalidated scores impact school districts in a positive or negative way, since ISTEP scores are used in numerous situations to guide school improvement efforts at a district and school level.

“The important issue here is that we want to be sure that we can place confidence in the ISTEP scores when they are released ... Additionally, classroom teachers use the scores to determine if students have mastered the state standards, and they then gear their instruction accordingly,” she said. “Whether the scores go up or down, the information is not helpful unless it is a true reflection of our students’ knowledge.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.