IDOE seeks more than $600K for ISTEP woes

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—The Indiana Department of Education announced Friday they would seek more than $600,000 in damages in connection with ISTEP testing interruptions experienced by Indianapolis Public Schools this spring.

Officials said the preliminary damages sought against the testing company, CTB McGraw-Hill, will not be less than $613,600 and the amount could go into the million. The amount includes $400,000 in liquidated damages provided for in the contract between the Department of Education and CTB. It also includes $53,600 that the Department will spend to have a third party conduct an analysis of the scores of students that had their testing sessions interrupted and at least $160,00 for other related costs associated with enhanced reporting data.

“I have worked closely with CTB throughout the ISTEP+ testing process,” said Superintendent Glenda Ritz. “The consequences of CTB’s server failures were real and significant for Indiana schools. As Superintendent, I will work to ensure that schools are made whole while continuing to negotiate with CTB in good faith.”

“We spend a lot of money on it,” said State Rep. Robert Behning, a co-chairperson of the commission. “It’s a very important assessment and it’s something we want to make sure we do right.”

The validity of the tests could help determine what happens with millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Education funding for individual districts and the state is often tied to performance. Additionally, the state does contractually have the ability for some sort of recourse or refund when testing does not go as planned.

This year, ISTEP+ testing had to be shut down multiple times after the computer systems running the tests moved too slowly, logged students out in the middle of tests and other problems arose.

Friday, lawmakers called a joint Commission on Education meeting at the Statehouse Friday at 1 p.m. to investigate the problems surrounding this year’s ISTEP+ testing.  At the public meeting, CTB/McGraw-Hill’s president, Ellen Haley, addressed lawmakers and apologized for the issues. Haley said the testing problems were caused by not enough memory storage on the servers.

In addition to the preliminary damages, IDOE officials may seek additional damages after further investigation. Those potential damages include, but are not limited to:

-Reimbursement to Indiana schools for additional costs incurred to administer ISTEP+ during the extended testing window.
-Reimbursement to the Indiana Department of Education for additional costs incurred because of ISTEP+ testing interruptions.

Anyone who cannot attend the meeting in person can watch online.