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ISTEP+ score review complete

Study showed interruptions had no negative impact

– A third-party review of spring ISTEP+ testing released Monday found no negative impact on student scores for the 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.

Scores also rose overall at rates similar to growth in recent years.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz hired Hill to review the validity of ISTEP+ scores following widespread testing interruptions in April affecting more than 100,000 students.

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 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.”

Hill said he used several analyses to try to find any suspect patterns in the scores but could not. He also noted several times that while students were affected by the interruptions, their scores showed negligible impacts.

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

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

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

Hill said even one aberrant test score could have a significant impact on a teacher’s evaluation given the small size of a classroom.

Ritz said the state’s A-F accountability rankings will incorporate the latest test results, though, because they were found to be reliable on a statewide basis.

“It is our baseline. It is what it is. I don’t know what to do with it except use it,” she said, noting students and parents should receive scores by the end of August.

Then the state can start calculating the A-F rankings. These rankings will be largely transitional because legislators have ordered a new process next year.

Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel said the district doesn’t use the scores from the ISTEP+ test to gauge student learning because they don’t provide teachers with relevant information, just whether a student passes or fails. NACS will continue to use its own assessments to best determine what students know and where they can improve, he said.

“Given the fact that I have witnessed and observed the impact the interruptions had on students, I don’t have any confidence that the scores are an accurate depiction of what our students know,” hesaid.

Districts experienced interruptions in varied degrees. East Allen County Schools experienced few because the district suspended testing until the state experienced one successful day of testing.

Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson continued to express grave concerns about the data given the computer glitches.

“We continue to request that the state pause all sanctions associated with ISTEP+ while we have a broad discussion on accountability in this state and how we hold schools to high standards,” she said. “Indiana has loaded layer upon layer on one single exam, an exam that was not designed to be the sole measure of all levels of student, teacher, school and district success.”

Journal Gazette staff writer Sarah Janssen contributed to this story.

nkelly@jg.net

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