Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 30, 2013

Glitch halts online testing

Students having trouble moving from question to question in ISTEP.

By Lindsey Ziliak

Kokomo — Several local school corporations were forced to suspend online ISTEP testing Monday after experiencing connectivity issues that made it nearly impossible for students to move from one question to the next.

Officials at Eastern Howard, Western and Kokomo-Center schools reported having issues. Representatives from other districts could not be reached Monday afternoon.

It appears the problem may have been widespread, though.

The Associated Press reported testing was halted in districts including Indianapolis, Carmel, West Lafayette and Brownsburg. Schools in Shelby and Tippecanoe counties also said they had problems.

Indiana Department of Education officials said 27,000 students were affected.

School officials said computer screens froze for up to five minutes at a time. Students had to repeatedly log back into their computers.

“We were able to test a few kids [Monday] morning,” said Craig Shearer, technology director for Western School Corp. “By about 9 o’clock it was a no go. We suspended testing after lunch.”

These issues are not acceptable when you’re talking about a high-stakes, timed test, said Dennis Bagley, technology director at Eastern Howard School Corp.

“It’s been horrendously frustrating for teachers and students,” Bagley said. “They’re both being evaluated on this.”

School districts received an email from CTB, the testing vendor, Monday afternoon explaining the situation.

“We have observed and received several reports this morning regarding disruptions experienced by students while taking the ISTEP+ Online test,” the email read. “Our immediate efforts to resolve the situation were not successful and our technology engineers are working diligently to isolate the source of the issues and make the necessary adjustments to return to a normal status as soon as possible.”

School districts said they would try to test their students again today.

This is not new territory, though. Shearer said there have been issues with online ISTEP testing in the past.

Eastern Superintendent Tracy Caddell said if the state is going to push schools to test students online, then the state needs to be prepared for it.

“The state doesn’t seem to have the capacity to handle it,” he said.