Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

June 10, 2013

Ritz announces outside review of ISTEP testing

Maureen Hayden
The Herald-Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana schools' chief Glenda Ritz announced today that she's hiring an outsider reviewer to determine whether the computer problems experienced by students during ISTEP test-taking should invalidate the test results.

Ritz, elected last November as the Superitendent of Public Instruction, said the state Department of Education has hired the New Hampshire-based National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment to conduct an independent analyis of more than 76,000 test results.

“Because the stakes are so high, the results must be beyond reproach,” said Ritz.

Her announcement came just weeks after test contractor CTB/McGraw-Hill said problems with the online exam would likely delay results until July.

The ISTEP test results play a critical role in determining the A-to-F letter grades given by the state to every school in the state, and are used by school administrators in teacher evaluations and to determine teacher pay.

Ritz said there were 78,269 students who experienced computer problems taking the ISTEP test in late April, out of the more than 482,000 students statewide who took the test. Some school administrators have called for the test results to be invalidated because of the problems.

Ritz said today that it was too early “to speculate” about the validity of the test results. But she did say that for school districts that experienced significant problems with the tests, she would recommend those districts reduce the weight of the test results in their teacher evaluations.

Ritz, a Democrat, has been critical about the role of the ISTEP tests in determining school funding and teacher evaulations – measures put into place by a Republican-controlled legislature.

Ritz said today that the problems experienced with the ISTEP testing, which have occurred for the past three years, should cause the state to rethink the role of the test. 

“I'm hoping the State of Indiana will want to reduce the high-stakes nature of this test,” Ritz said. “It's supposed to be about (evaluating) student learning. That's it.”