News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 2, 2013

STEP testing goes well Wednesday in Vigo schools


The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Online ISTEP testing at 50 percent capacity “went very well” Wednesday, according to John Newport, Vigo County School Corp. curriculum coordinator of assessment.

“It’s very nice to see some success, although at half of our capacity,” he said.

Required standardized testing resumed Wednesday in Indiana after two days of computer glitches, but state officials asked schools to cut their normal test loads by half to avoid more problems.

The problem was with the vendor of the test, CTB/McGraw-Hill, an Illinois-based educational publishing company, Newport said. “The CTB servers were being overloaded.”

In Vigo County, larger middle schools were able to use about 65 computers, while elementary schools were able to use 30 computers at a time.

The hope is that as schools finish ISTEP, both locally and across the state, those still finishing will be able to increase the number of computers they use above the 50 percent, Newport said.

The testing window has been extended to May 15. If some schools are not finished, Newport believes the state “will work with us.”

Some schools used Wednesday as a “make-up” day to finish testing from Monday and Tuesday, while others chose to more forward with the testing schedule, he said.

The biggest challenge comes at the middle school level, where all students in grades 6, 7 and 8 take ISTEP, said Karen Goeller, deputy superintendent. At the elementary level, students in just grades 3, 4 and 5 take ISTEP.

District officials are closely monitoring the situation and “checking in with schools regularly,” Newport said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

Regardless of the frustrations and challenges, district officials are encouraging everyone to remain positive so students will do the same, he said.

Officials recognize the disruptions could impact test scores, and schools are documenting that, he said.

When the district receives test results, “If there are any situations where we feel these testing irregularities may have affected scores, we’ll look at that closely” as the basis for an appeal, Newport said.

ISTEP is a high-stakes test, and recent changes in state law have tied ISTEP results to school grades, individual teacher evaluations and teachers’ pay.

The testing takes place in computer labs, and school test coordinators are working hard to schedule classes for ISTEP, despite the reduced computer testing capacity, Newport said.

Goeller praised teachers, principals and students for remaining positive and flexible as they adjust their schedules in response to  interruptions caused by online ISTEP testing.

“We do recognize results from ISTEP will inform school accountability and staff performance evaluations,” Goeller said. “We  are hopeful that after testing is completed, the state Department of Education will look into those areas” and provide guidance on how those results need to be handled, she said.

“This situation has not been optimal,” Goeller said. At least 27,000 Hoosier third- through eighth-grade students were kicked offline during the tests early this week.

“It’s a serious problem the state must address because of the high stakes,” Goeller said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.