Company responsible for ISTEP errors apologizes, state says sorry isn’t enough

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The president of ISTEP administrator CTB/McGraw-Hill apologized to Hoosiers for errors in the online testing system this year, Friday, but the company still faces possibly millions in fines.

In a hearing before state legislators, President Ellen Haley said the problems with testing were unacceptable.

“Let me begin first, before I say anything else, by apologizing to you,” Haley said.

Legislators grilled Haley and other representatives from CTB/McGraw-Hill about the cause of problems on the first two days of this year’s test. Haley said the issue was servers without enough memory. She also blamed testing the company did ahead of time that turned out to underestimate the number of kids taking the test at one time.

“It makes us wonder if maybe technology isn’t the way to go,” one legislator told Haley.

The Indiana Department of Education also answered questions about the validity of this year’s testing. IDOE has hired a third party to look into testing scores to determine what impact disruptions had on tests.

IDOE also announced preliminary fines it planned to levy against CTB/McGraw-Hill. Right now, that number totals more than $600,000 and the department said it could easily reach into the millions.

The state owes CTB/McGraw-Hill $24 million for this year’s testing but has not paid that yet as fines are assessed.

At the hearing, administrators from Indiana school districts got a chance to speak out, too.

Ft. Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson urged lawmakers to reconsider the impact ISTEP has on teacher evaluations and state funding.

Robinson read a letter written to CTB/McGraw-Hill by a 5th-grader.

“I want to feel relaxed on next year’s tests, so can you fix it back to normal?” that 5th-grader wrote.

Legislators have planned another public hearing to talk about the validity of this year’s ISTEP and whether to throw out test scores. The hearing has been set for Monday, July 29 at 1 p.m.