Computer problems disrupt ISTEP exam again

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Just when it seemed that computer problems with the online ISTEP+ exam were over, Monday saw another disruption.

Indianapolis Public Schools said the test stopped working just before 11 a.m., forcing a temporary suspension.

“We received word from the contractor that the test would not be available,” said IPS spokesman John Althardt. “And more concerning to us at that time was that there was no assurance for us when the test might be back and available.”

The delay turned out to be about 30 minutes long for IPS students. It was a relatively minor disruption compared to two weeks ago, when statewide testing was suspended for two consecutive days. Althardt argued that any disruption is a concern when it comes to student performance on a test that evaluates student progress, school performance and funding.

“Imagine a third grader sitting in a classroom taking a weekly spelling test, and being told to stop and start several times,” Althardt said.

Officials in Wayne Township Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools reported similar problems Monday. Some South Bend school districts also had issues.

A statement on the website of test provider CTB/McGraw-Hill said the disruption originated at a data center and lasted 13 minutes.

The statement said the problem was “due to a Denial of Service attack against a separate internet application. Working with our network service providers, engineers quickly moved internet circuits to filter and isolate the problem and ensure OAS bandwidth was available to continue testing as quickly as possible.”

At this point, schools are confident they will be able to complete testing by the newly extended deadline of Friday, May 17.

Another problem like this does nothing to help public confidence in this year’s test. Many educators worry all the disruptions will affect students’ scores.

CTB/McGraw-Hill has assured state leaders that no data or test answers have been lost, but State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has said a third party may be brought in to verify the scores.

Some state officials are calling for a review of Indiana’s $95 million contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill. After major troubles occurred two weeks ago, Republican State Sen. Dennis Kruse suggested that the contractor owes the state some money back.

“Definitely McGraw-Hill should have some consequences as a result of this,” Kruse said.

Some members of the State Board of Education expressed similar feelings.

ISTEP Exam scores are expected to be released toward the end of the summer.