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Online ISTEP+ glitches had little effect on scores, report says

INDIANAPOLIS – A third-party review of spring ISTEP+ testing released Monday found no negative effect of computer glitches on student scores for the vast majority of students.

“Indeed, students who were interrupted had somewhat larger gains across years than those who were not interrupted,” according to the report by Dr. Richard Hill of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz hired Hill to review the validity of ISTEP+ scores following widespread testing interruptions in April.

Some education officials have called for some or all of the scores to be thrown out.

ISTEP+ scores are used in part to determine teacher performance and compensation. And they determine each school’s A-to-F accountability grade. The accountability grade can be used to eventually close failing schools or allow more students to take vouchers without first attending public school.

“We cannot know definitively how students would have scored this spring if the interruptions had not happened,” the report said. “However, the data strongly suggest, that the vast majority of students scored as well as they would have had the interruptions never happened.”

The report also noted the interruptions weren’t the only element that changed in the test administration this year, which adds a level of uncertainty as to the root cause of changes.

“The problems with the ISTEP+ contractor were absolutely unacceptable. Every student deserves the opportunity to take a fair and uninterrupted assessment,” Ritz said.

The Indiana Department of Education is negotiating a financial settlement with testing contractor CTB McGraw-Hill.

Ritz said she has given schools flexibility to minimize the effect the tests have on teacher evaluations and compensation.

But it appears the state’s A-F accountability rankings will incorporate the latest test results.

Niki Kelly is Statehouse bureau chief for The Journal Gazette.