ONLY ON FOX59 | Schools ‘extremely concerned’ about ISTEP glitch repeat

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INDIANAPOLIS — The heads of more than a dozen central Indiana school districts tell FOX59 they are “extremely concerned” that next week’s ISTEP testing will once again be compromised.

Those statements came at a board meeting of the Central Indiana Education Service Center, or CIESC. Technology representatives from several districts spoke of glitches experienced in this week’s practice testing.

Indiana is currently in the final months of a four-year, $95 million contract with test provider CTB/McGraw-Hill. It has still not agreed on settlement with the company for last year’s testing issues.

Zionsville Schools reported a number of students who experienced the well-known “spinning globe” issue Monday, forcing them to stop and reset the test.

“Initially when that was reported, (I was told) it was only our issue. Later in the day we had the yellow flags go up from CTB because there were many other school experiencing the same thing,” Zionsville Chief Technology Director Patti Bostwick said.

Tests administered by CTB/McGraw-Hill  in Oklahoma had to be halted for system issues Monday. The company later blamed a network issue for the outage and testing resumed Tuesday.

“It is an understatement to say that I am frustrated with McGraw-Hill,” Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi said.

Those issues, coupled with last year’s system-wide glitches, have superintendents worried.

“There’s definitely a lack of trust,” CIESC Board Chairman and Lebanon Superintendent Robert Taylor said.

Taylor reported that technology directors had concerns that glitches could be compounded next week, when both Indiana and Oklahoma will be administering tests.

FOX59 obtained a memo sent by McGraw-Hill to the Indiana Department of Education last summer, after testing issues. It shows that, just like an outside investigation confirmed, glitches did not appear to affect student test scores overall.

Still, the memo did contend that individual students may have been impacted.

“Note, however, that these results … do not prove that there was no impact on any student,” the memo said.

“We’ve had students in tears, just absolute tears and to sit them back in front of the computer and say, ‘We need you to do your best’ is really a struggle,” Franklin Director of Technology Matt Sprout said.

It’s that possibility – the impact on kids – that Taylor said no district wants.

“This is negatively impacting students,” Taylor said.

Speaking to Fox 59 on Wednesday evening, CTB/McGraw-Hill Media Director Brian Belardi said the issues had been resolved.

“(We’re) doing what we can to remedy the situation heading into the main event which starts Monday. We feel confident about everything that we have control of and we really stand behind all the measures that we took to improve our offering, improve the online testing experience over the past year,” Belardi said.

Daniel Altman, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education, sent this statement in response to the Superintendents’ concerns:

“The Department is aware of the outages that Oklahoma experienced earlier this week and we are in the process of gathering information about exactly what happened.  It appears that testing has gone smoothly since the initial interruptions on Monday.

In addition, our technology and assessment teams are reaching out to Oklahoma and working with CTB to ensure that CTB is ready when ISTEP starts next week.

Finally, our assessment team is working with local schools to ensure that their networks are ready for testing and CTB has engineers available for on-site support.”

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