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Officials Apologize For ISTEP Glitches

Last updated on Saturday, June 22, 2013

(UNDATED) - The president of the company that administers the ISTEP to Indiana students apologized for glitches that plagued tens of thousands of students trying to take the exam this year.

The apology from CTB-McGraw Hill president Ellen Haley came during a legislative summer study committee hearing on the ISTEP problems and what should be done to address them. Haley testified that 78,219 students experienced interruptions during the first two days of ISTEP testing April 29 and 30 because CTB-McGraw Hill did not have enough memory in the pair of computer servers used to collect test data.

While emphasizing that more than 400,000 students successfully completed the exam on those days and that this was the first year the multiple choice portion of ISTEP was given entirely online, Haley called the interruptions unacceptable. She says pre-testing conducted by her company, including internal stress testing and sample testing involving thousands of actual students, led CTB officials to conclude they were ready to handle the workload.

Haley now says it is clear that was not the case, adding that testing is ongoing right now to determine server capacity for next year's ISTEP, which would be the last under a four-year contract between CTB and the state.

The hearing began less than two hours after the Department of Education issued a statement saying it would seek no less than $613,600 in damages from CTB for the test interruptions, damages the department says could go into the millions.

The state pays CTB about $24 million per year to administer ISTEP - CTB also administers IREAD, the 3rd-grade reading exam that students must pass in order to advance to the 4th grade.

"We're waiting to determine how we should work this all out, and certainly the contract allows for the fact that there could be fines and damages awarded," said John Barnes, the department's Director of Legislative Affairs. Barnes testified in place of State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who had a prior commitment.

Haley and two other CTB officials - Chief Digital Officer Steven Lassiter and Vice President of Engineering Richard Pates, were grilled for almost two hours by lawmakers, some of whom doubted they were telling the entire story.

Representative Kreg Battles (D - Vincennes), who is also a teacher, said he had personally witnessed problems that he didn't think could be explained by Haley's testimony. "On some of the testing, the full answer bank would not load. So a kid would have a question in which there was, literally, no correct answer," Battles said.

The hearing was the first of six education summer study committee meetings that have been scheduled, and the first of two dealing with ISTEP.

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