FWCS Forges On With ISTEP+ Amid Concerns

By Kevin Kitt

May 4, 2013 Updated May 4, 2013 at 6:46 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – Roughly 12,000 students at Fort Wayne Community Schools continue to struggle with ISTEP exams due in large part to a flaw with the computer testing system.

After many problems with this week's round of online ISTEP testing, educators across the city and state are questioning the validity of the test.

Our partner in news the Journal Gazette reports that Fort Wayne Community Schools' (FWCS) Board President is calling on legislators to hold an independent investigation into the reliability of the test.

Friday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, said she is considering bringing in a third party to review ISTEP scores.

This is the first year FWCS students have been required to take computerized ISTEP exams, and the tests are already getting off to a rocky start. Members of the FWCS community held a conference Friday to discuss the long-term ramifications this faulty test could have on their schools.

Some students are reporting computer failures that are causing significant delays. Board members referenced one example where a student took a test given a 30 minute allotment lasted 2 and a half hours.

Growing concerns are that these flaws could ultimately compromise the validity of these tests. Because Indiana passed severe “high stakes testing” legislation, all kinds of funding and school accreditation could be compromised if this year's results are not found to be valid.

Yet despite the headaches, Superintendent Wendy Robinson says there is no choice but to continue the testing.

"I have no control over what the State's going to do in terms of how they count these tests. So the last thing we need to do as a district is to make a bad situation even worse by having no data at all. Because for me as a Superintendent I believe my kids were going to improve. So if we have no test data or nothing to even talk about whether it should be adjusted or not, I'm stuck with whatever happened last year."

Dr. Robinson later mentioned the State has very specific instructions on how and when ISTEP testing needs to be completed, and that unfortunately she's not in a position to change that.

The leading cause of these problems appear to be a server error with McGraw-Hill, the company administering the tests. FWCS officials say the schools did everything they could to prepare for an instance like this leading up to the tests, including what they call a "stress test" run-through just two weeks prior. These tests were designed to ensure FWCS servers could handle the influx of activity.

Because of the delays in testing, the ISTEP end date has been pushed back to May 17th.

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