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Exams resume as ISTEP woes decline


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3rd grade students enter a computer lab as Northwood Elementary school restarts Istep testing after a week of problems Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Franklin, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
3rd grade students enter a computer lab as Northwood Elementary school restarts Istep testing after a week of problems Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Franklin, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal


A Johnson County school district decided not do any further online ISTEP testing this week after students were kicked offline and unable to take the exam, and other schools are days behind their regular schedules.

Edinburgh schools decided to put off ISTEP testing until next week, to allow more time for the glitches with the online system to be solved and to give students a fresh start. Third- through eighth-graders had been repeatedly interrupted during test-taking earlier in the week, or were unable to complete sections of the exam.

Franklin schools had canceled ISTEP testing for the third straight day, but resumed testing with half as many students Thursday. Other districts continued to test at least 50 percent of their students, and Center Grove schools began 100 percent testing again, without a hitch.

The Indiana Department of Education reported few problems across the state Thursday, and also gave schools more time to finish testing and asked that schools continue to test only half as many students as they had planned, according to a department news release.

Frozen screens and error messages that kicked students off the online ISTEP testing system were no longer issues Thursday, as they had been when testing was canceled Monday and Tuesday. School officials said they experienced few problems — mainly minor software kinks.

“If nothing at all had happened on Monday and Tuesday and you asked me how ISTEPs went today, I would say great,” Franklin schools technology director Matt Sprout said.

Center Grove resumed testing all students in all grade levels, after testing about half as many Wednesday, technology director Julie Bohnenkamp said. As many as one in five students had trouble logging in to take the test, but lack of server problems meant no mass delays. That issue seems to have been resolved, she said.

The Department of Education asked schools on Wednesday to test about half as many students as they typically would, after test administrator CTB/McGraw-Hill had a memory problem on an out-of-state server that forced the exams to be shut down for two consecutive days.

Edinburgh schools wanted to give the company time to fix any issues and won’t resume testing its students until next week, interim superintendent William Glentzer said.

ISTEP testing is too important to have students go through a series of false starts only to be interrupted again, Glentzer said. School officials decided they’d be better off to begin anew Monday.

“Instead of starting it midweek, we’re going to do the test next week so they’re geared up and ready to go,” he said. “We decided it would be in the students’ best interests to do it on regular schedule, so we moved it back to give them a fresh start next week.”

The Department of Education gave schools an extra week, or until May 17, to finish the testing due to the problems that delayed thousands of students from taking the test.

Testing at Clark-Pleasant schools went smoothly Thursday. Any issues were minor, such as time-out errors and students not being able to log in, technology director Jim White said.

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools also only faced minor glitches that technical support staff were quickly able to fix during Thursday’s testing, superintendent Matt Prusiecki said. Half of students in grades three through eight took ISTEP exams Thursday, he said.

“That lengthens it, and it’s an inconvenience in a structured schedule,” he said. “It breaks classroom time more and effectively disrupts the continuity of instruction.”

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools are not far behind their original ISTEP testing schedule, largely because most students were able to finish testing Tuesday morning.

School officials had students quickly complete any unfinished sections, so they wouldn’t have the chance to ask classmates the answers to questions, Prusiecki said.

They still have worries about the validity of the test results, given the added stress and frustration of the interruptions, he said.

“You worry that interruptions and delays could possibly affect performance on the exam,” he said. “We try to minimize that as best as possible, but some factors are outside our control.”

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