Ritz: Third Party Hired To Validate ISTEP+ Data

By Emma Koch
By Rachel Martin

June 10, 2013 Updated Jun 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM EDT

INDIANA (www.incnow.tv) -- Monday, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz announced that the Department of Education has hired the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (NCIEA) to determine whether testing interruptions experienced by students invalidated high stakes ISTEP+ test scores.

Ritz says more than 78,000 student scores were affected by the interruptions during ISTEP+ testing in May. Fortunately, Ritz says, students were only interrupted during one or two sessions out of the up to six test sessions. But, she still finds those interruptions to be "unacceptable" and she now questions the validity of the tests.

“Like all Hoosier parents, students, and educators, I was extremely frustrated with the alarmingly high volume of test interruptions during Indiana’s high stakes test,” said Superintendent Ritz. “These interruptions were simply unacceptable, and they call into question the validity of the testing data. These results have a large effect on schools and communities. School accountability, as well as teacher compensation and evaluation are based, in part, on this data. Because the stakes of this test are so high, the results must be beyond reproach.”

At Superintendent Ritz’s direction, NCIEA’S co-founder Dr. Richard Hill will conduct an independent analysis of the validity of the online tests taken by students that were seriously interrupted due to server errors. Dr. Hill has extensive experience in this type of analysis, and holds a Masters in Secondary Mathematics Education from St. Lawrence University and a Ph.D. in Statistics and Measurement from Syracuse University.

The analysis will be done in two phases. The first will determine whether administrative testing problems affected students’ scores, and the second will determine whether scores should be equated or adjusted based on the findings.

"This is a high-stakes test that we're looking at. It is critical to have the validation process completed with the utmost quality, so I'm not giving you an exact timeline. I want it done right, so we will see when that process has ended,” said Ritz.

Even though Ritz says she's not going put a timeline on the analysis, she predicts it could take four to five weeks to complete. She says the analysis is necessary because ISTEP isn't just about measuring a student's progress anymore. Ritz says ISTEP now also determines the reputation of schools (grading scale), as well as the performance and compensation of teachers, something Ritz says she’d eventually like to change.

"Every year when we give ISTEP there's always the chance that something like this can happen. It's just the nature of how it could be. I'm hoping the state of Indiana wants to reduce the high stakes attached to this test. It should be about students learning. That's what it's supposed to be about.”

This analysis will be done completely independently from any analyses that are conducted by CTB-McGraw Hill. Dr. Hill will also independently review any findings by CTB-McGraw Hill. The cost of Dr. Hill’s review is not expected to exceed $53,600.

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