Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 1, 2013

ISTEP testing halted a second time

Teachers and students left stressed, frustrated.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Local educators were left frustrated and stressed Tuesday after the Indiana Department of Education suspended online ISTEP testing for a second day because of technical issues.

“We had some students who experienced a lot of interruptions again today,” said Taylor Community Schools Superintendent John Magers. “It is a mess.”

Monday, 27,000 students across the state had troubles with their online tests. Some had to wait upwards of 30 minutes to move from one question to the next. Others had to repeatedly log back into the system.

Officials with the state’s testing company said they had engineers working on the issues all day Monday and were hopeful the problems would be corrected by Tuesday morning.

Western Intermediate and Middle school students tested for hours without a hitch Tuesday. But by 11:15 a.m., the testing system became completely unavailable again, said Craig Shearer, technology director for Western School Corp.

An hour later, schools received an email from the state superintendent of public instruction directing them to halt testing for the remainder of the day.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz issued a statement that said, “I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for a second consecutive day. Like all Hoosier parents, students and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.”

Ritz said the decision to suspend testing for a second day was not made lightly. She said all students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable.

Magers wants to know if that can even happen anymore.

“My big question overall is how valid can these tests be?” Magers said. “The students have experienced so much distraction.”

It’s hard enough for small children to focus on such a big test on a good day, Magers said. When they have to wait long periods between questions, they get fidgety and can lose focus.

Peru Community Schools Superintendent Chuck Brimbury said the whole situation really stressed his teachers out. They’re being evaluated on this exam.

“It’s obvious this is a very difficult situation,” Brimbury said. “No one is pleased with the challenges our students and teachers have faced.”

Brimbury said he tried to reassure his staff by telling them they shouldn’t focus on things they can’t control. He’s trying to be optimistic, he said.

The Peru superintendent is hopeful his students can resume testing today. He will await word from the department of education.

Magers said his students won’t be testing again until at least Thursday.

“I think at our schools, we’re going to take a day off,” he said. “I don’t trust the system is going to be up and running like it should be.”

The testing delays could cause a scheduling problem for his middle school students, though.

They are operating on a tight deadline. They share a computer lab with the high school. Students there will need the computers soon to complete their End of Course Assessments for the state, Magers said.

Shearer said educators and students at Western are trying to make the best of a bad situation.

“Our students, teachers and principals are doing a great job being so flexible when the schedule is changing on a daily basis,” he said. “This has been very difficult for them and everyone is doing the best they can. We still have a lot of students to test.”