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Education/Schools

May 6, 2013

ISTEP troubles show test too big to fail

INDIANAPOLIS —

The failure of Indiana’s online standardized test last week showed that the ISTEP+ exam is too big to fail, on many levels.

Beyond the obvious and critical role it plays in determining how children advance in school, the test has more recently become a barometer for whether teachers get pay increases and whether schools are making the grade. The successful completion of the test also determines whether education mega-contractor CTB/McGraw-Hill gets all the money it seeks from the state.

Incoming Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said that makes ISTEP+ “intensely high-stakes” testing.

With so many things at stake, it’s not surprising that McGraw-Hill and state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz would make their first focus after last week’s testing disruptions getting the testing back on track. Determining who should be held accountable — and what to do about the scores on tests that were affected — will come later.

“Our first goal is to get through the actual testing window and to make sure all students are taking the test,” Ritz said following a Wednesday meeting of the state school board. DOE spokesman Daniel Altman said later that Ritz is considering hiring a third party to review the validity of the test scores but said the department’s first goal was completing the test.

Indeed, by the start of this week, state schools are expected to begin testing 100 percent of the students they had planned on before the system collapse.

But the question of who will be held accountable still weighs heavily on parents of the children whose tests were stalled, among many others.

Don Current, a 42-year-old web designer from Shelbyville, said he was frustrated by the experience. His twin sons attend Loper Elementary School, where the one-hour test period stretched to two hours Monday. Students weren’t allowed to leave to go to the bathroom and their lunch was delayed an hour.

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