State hires firm to evaluate validity of ISTEP+ results

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An independent reviewer will take up to five weeks to review ISTEP+ scores a month after computer problems disrupted the tests for students across the state.

During a news conference Monday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said the Department of Education has hired the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment to analyze whether the interruptions invalidated the scores. The review will cost more than $53,000, Ritz revealed.

Ritz called the disruptions “unacceptable” and said the results needed to be evaluated by an outside source because they have a significant impact on students and school districts.

“School accountability, as well as teacher compensation and evaluation are based, in part, on this data,” Ritz said. “Because the stakes of this test are so high, the results must be beyond reproach.”

Problems with the online portion of ISTEP+ disrupted more than 78,000 tests. Ritz said 482,000 students took the test online and eventually completed it. The Indianaa Department of Education could get money back from CTB/McGraw Hill, the contractor that administered the exam.

“In the contract there are liquidated damages that are already indicated. We’ll be talking with them about further repercussions of the actual test,” Ritz said.

Here is a timeline of the testing problems provided by the Indiana Department of Education:

April 29, 2013:  During the first day of online ISTEP+ testing, students throughout Indiana experienced interruptions.  It was quickly discovered that the interruptions were caused by an error on CTB McGraw-Hill’s servers.  After CTB’s online testing system experienced their first disruptions, Superintendent Ritz extended the testing window by two days to give schools additional flexibility to allow 482,000 students to complete online testing.

April 30, 2013:  For the second consecutive day, an error on CTB McGraw-Hill’s servers caused widespread interruptions for Indiana students.  In response, Superintendent Ritz suspended online testing for the remainder of the day to give CTB time to assess and fix the problems.  Superintendent Ritz also extended the testing window by three additional days and asked schools to test at 50% of their normal testing load, based on the assurances of CTB.  Because of these steps, the remainder of the ISTEP+ was completed with minimal interruption to Indiana students.

May 3, 2013:  Superintendent Ritz conducted three separate conference calls open to all superintendents throughout Indiana to answer their questions about testing issues.  Superintendent Ritz and the Department of Education also maintained constant contact with schools throughout the testing window.

May 17, 2013:  ISTEP+ testing concluded for the 482,000 Hoosier children that took the test online.

May 24, 2013:  The Department of Education provided schools with a list of 78,269 students that CTB indicated had testing sessions interrupted.  The Department gave that list to local schools so that they could check the list against their records.  On this date, the Department also issued a request for qualifications to three national companies experienced in validating test results.

June 6, 2013:  Superintendent Ritz met with NCIEA’s founder Dr. Hill about reviewing the validity of online ISTEP+ testing.

June 7, 2013:  Local schools throughout Indiana provided a list of additional students that experienced interruptions to the Department of Education.  Students on these lists will be included in Dr. Hill’s review.

June 10, 2013: The DOE hired NCIEA as the independent third party validator of CTB’s online high stakes ISTEP+ test results.  Dr. Hill immediately began Phase 1 of the validation process, which will consist of reviewing whether administrative testing problems materially affected student scores.  Phase 2 of the analysis will consist of determining whether scores should be equated or adjusted based on the findings of Phase 1.

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