State Board members defend latest ISTEP score delays

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 19, 2015) -- Yet another delay in the release of ISTEP testing scores has education officials pointing fingers at each other.

On Monday, State Board of Education members Sarah O'Brien, Dr. Byron Ernest and Dr. Vince Bertram appeared before the media, saying they did not know when they would be able to approve cut scores for the test. Those scores will allow the state to begin grading students' tests and determining whether they passed or failed the spring test.

"We know that across the board, across the state, there is a distrust in the testing system at this point," O'Brien said.

The latest issue is the difference between the test taken on computers and the old-fashioned paper and pencil version. Board members have expressed concern that the online version was more difficult because it did not give multiple choice answers to some questions.

A draft version of a report prepared by test administrator CTB McGraw-Hill did not point to major issues with the tests, but did conclude that "there were many flagged items for math ... (and) many paper pencil items appeared to be easier than corresponding online items."

Board members said that report was issued to them late in the process and that it was not sent in a timely manner by the Indiana Department of Education. They're asking for more information and data from the testing company and IDOE.

"A score is going to be attached to that student and their performance so we ... need to get that right," Ernest said.

IDOE Spokesperson Daniel Altman didn't agree, though. Altman said Monday that the Department does not believe the tests are significantly different and it is ready to start grading the tests. He pointed the finger at board members, saying they are holding up the process.

"The Department is ready to go. We think everyone has the information they need and we think this needs to be done quickly," Altman said.

Ultimately, the delays affect students who do not yet know if they passed or failed the test and teachers, whose evaluations that determine raises and bonuses depend on test results.

Board members could give the green light next week, but did not seem optimistic that they would be ready. At this point, the earliest scores could be released is mid-December and any more delay would push the release into early next year.

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