INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- School districts trying to administer Indiana's required standardized test encountered new problems Tuesday that forced the state to suspend testing for a second straight day.
Glenda Ritz, Superintendent of Public Instruction ordered testing halted after schools in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Carmel, Lafayette and other areas reported issues accessing the online portion of the ISTEP+ exam. The directive came a day after 27,000 students struggled to connect and complete the test.
Ritz said the issues were "unacceptable" and pledged that the Department of Education would work with schools to ensure they have enough time to administer the test once the problems are corrected.
"All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable," she said in a statement.
Some school officials expressed concerns about how the problems would impact students' scores.
"I have major questions now with the validity of ISTEP results. We will not get an accurate picture of how well students are doing," Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community Schools, told the Journal & Courier.
"By and large, all of the tests are being done online this time around, so we had prepared students for that and then they go in and they're ready to take the test, they're focusing and then there's these disruptions that can be probably detrimental to some students," Krista Stockman, Fort Wayne Community Schools Public Information Officer said.
This is the third straight year that students in grades three through eight taking the online portion of the exam have encountered problems, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Vendor CBT/McGraw-Hill LLC had initially reported all testing systems were running fine Tuesday. However, it changed its status as students began logging in and connection problems arose, urging schools to suspend testing until 12:30 p.m.
Ritz said about 150,000 test sessions were completed by 11 a.m. but that interruptions spiked a short time later.
Indianapolis Public Schools spokesman John Althardt said the problems were discouraging.
"There is so much buildup and expectation and anticipation about what the test means that any disruptions in the schedule and rhythm of testing for our students is frustrating for us," he said. "We feel we've done our best to prepare our students and schools and then when we're unable to conduct this testing, it's a source of frustration."
Fort Wayne Community Schools said stakes are high when it comes to ISTEP testing. Results could affect school grades, funding and influence public perception.
"Puts a lot of pressure on these schools to make sure that students are performing at their peak on test days every single time, and when things like this happen, it's not optimal. It's not because of our doing and it's not anything that we've done wrong. So, I think it is frustrating," Stockman said.
NewsChannel 15 spoke to several school districts in the area. Superintendents say they are waiting until a full day goes by with out problems. Others plan to continue testing Wednesday. Educators in LaGrange County say they find the state unreliable and they're waiting to administer tests until they feel that's changed.
In 2011, up to 10,000 students statewide were logged off and some were unable to log back in for up to an hour while taking the test. The state invalidated 215 scores that year because they were lower than expected.
About 9,000 students were kicked offline during the test last year.
Carol Stream, Ill.-based McGraw-Hill administers the exam under a four-year, $95 million contract with the Indiana Department of Education. The contract runs through June 2014.
The contract requires McGraw-Hill to provide "uninterrupted" computer availability every school day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the two weeks prior to each testing window, as well as for the entire testing window.
Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
"I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for a second consecutive day. Like all Hoosier parents, students and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.
We have been constantly monitoring the situation this morning. Between approximately 7:30 and 11:00 over 150,000 test sessions were completed. At approximately 11:15 a.m., there was a spike in test interruptions.
Because of these errors, I have instructed the Department of Education to suspend testing for the remainder of the day. This decision was not made lightly, but was done to minimize further disruptions for our schools. All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable.
The Indiana Department of Education is working with the company that administers the test to ensure that the rest of the test is administered smoothly and efficiently. We will also conduct a thorough review to determine the exact cause of this issue. Finally, we
will also work with local schools so that they have the time they need to administer a fair test for all Hoosier students."
Ritz said she believes testing will continue Wednesday. She will communicate with schools directly regarding the timeframes of the test.
The paper/pencil testing deadline is still on May 8 since it wasn't affected.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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