School seeking ISTEP fixes

For up to an hour, dozens of students fought with blank screens and error messages to complete a test that should have taken no more than 30 minutes.

The Indian Creek students were chosen to do a practice test for future versions of the ISTEP exam. The additional testing for third-, sixth-, eighth- and tenth-graders is meant to help the state prepare for future ISTEP exams, and is required for schools that were selected.

That practice testing could be completed in less than 30 minutes, but students struggled with technical glitches that would not allow them to sign in to the testing page. Students were waiting 30 to 60 minutes before an entire class could sign in to begin taking the exam, test coordinator Brian Boehnlein said.

“We ran into the problems we thought we’d run into,” Boehnlein said. “It took longer to get in than it did to take the test.”

Now, school officials are petitioning the state to allow them to take future versions of the ISTEP on paper and pencil, including the second section of the exam that begins in April.

That way, students and teachers won’t have to worry about technical glitches, Boehnlein said.

Boehnlein was concerned that the school district would run into technical issues after at least four unsuccessful stress tests before ISTEP testing began last week, he said. During the stress tests, administrators try to connect every computer, laptop or device to the testing website at once to make sure their connections can handle that many students testing at once.

Despite Indian Creek attempting to solve internet issues before ISTEP began last week, school officials still had connectivity problems this week, Boehnlein said.

School officials had only one grade level attempt to take the extra sections at a time, so they could avoid any technical issues, Boehnlein said. Every grade level testing would be about nine classrooms of 30 students each, he said.

Other local school districts did not report any major issues, and were able to finish the online testing without delays, school officials said.

At Indian Creek, students would sign in, but then get a blank white screen or an error screen, asking for them to sign in again, Boehnlein said.

And by the time administrators could get an entire classroom signed in, students were bored from waiting 30 to 60 minutes, Boehnlein said.

The technical issues at Indian Creek delayed testing Monday and Tuesday, and administrators are not happy with losing additional instructional time while waiting for the technology to work, Boehnlein said.

If technical glitches continue even after schools have reported the problems to the state, the Indiana Department of Education will approve a paper-and-pencil version of the test.

Boehnlein hopes the state will approve the request in two weeks, he said.