Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 21, 2014

IDOE fails to support IREAD test for iPads

Schools make last-minute adjustment to administer test on PCs.

By Lauren Fitch Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — It didn’t happen the way Northwestern School Corp. teachers and students expected it to, but IREAD testing still went smoothly this week.

As a 1:1 technology corporation where students are assigned their own iPads, Northwestern and Howard elementary schools planned to administer the annual reading proficiency test on iPads this year for the first time.

But the Indiana Department of Education and CTB/McGraw Hill education assessments failed to create an iPad testing manual, and the schools had to make a last-minute switch to personal computers.

“The problem we found was the instructions they gave us did not match what we were seeing on iPad screens,” said Northwestern Elementary principal Ron Owings. “I tell my teachers not to deviate from the script even one word. … If you don’t follow the script, you risk making a mistake that could be costly for everyone.”

Teachers discovered a mismatch in instructions for how students should advance to the next phase of the test during a practice test last week. Northwestern then decided to administer the IREAD test on PCs in the computer lab instead.

“The Department of Education dropped the ball big time by not providing iPad testing manuals,” Owings said. “I’m not a fan of the high stakes nature of the test anyway, and to give teachers the opportunity to go off script opens a big can of worms.”

Northwestern and Howard elementary students also are comfortable using PCs, so the testing went fine, Owings said, once they made the switch from iPads. He is looking forward to using the iPads for testing next year.

Maconaquah Elementary School got an earlier start on the IREAD test than most area schools because of the corporation’s balanced calendar. Third-grade students there took the test on their laptops March 11.

“We’re a 1:1 school, so they use their laptops every day,” said Principal Kelly McPike. “Our kids are pretty comfortable with that kind of testing.”

Extreme winter weather this year threw another wrench in schools’ preparation for the ISTEP and IREAD tests with corporations canceling classes many times in the months leading up to the testing. Maconaquah teachers felt more pressure going into test time this year, McPike said, but ultimately students still were prepared.

“In a given year without the snow, we always feel pressed for time,” she said. “We felt some extra pressure and extra stress, but we still felt the kids were well-prepared.”

The elementary school dedicates its federal Title I money to support for students struggling in reading and math, which McPike said helps students master basic reading skills.

“We don’t wait until we take IREAD and get the results,” she added. “We identify struggling readers early on and start working with them right away.”

Education reporter Lauren Fitch can be reached at 765-454-8587, by email at lauren.fitch@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @LaurenBFitch.