Saturday, October 25, 2014

ISTEP+ glitches affecting student placement for 2013-14 school year

Posted on July 27, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 27, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.

JEFFERSONVILLE — Indiana school districts have been forced to determine where to place students and delay school improvement plans because of spring problems with online ISTEP+ testing.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is expected to announce results of a third-party review into the validity of this year’s scores on Monday. But that’s too late for many districts that have had to decide which students need remedial help and where to place students without any test scores in hand.

The ISTEP+ test measures students’ performance and plays a key role in determining how much money districts receive. Scores also are used to hold teachers accountable and are critical to determining merit raises and even job security.

Schools typically receive the results in May, but this year’s scores have been delayed because of computer problems during testing that knocked students offline and forced many to sign back in repeatedly. Some school officials have said they will not honor the results because of the problems, and Ritz ordered the outside review of the issues with the test administered by CTB-McGraw Hill.

Sally Jensen, director of assessment for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said she’s eager to find out what the review showed.

“They may think these are invalid and we can’t do anything with them. Once we’re able to read that report about what experts say about this test data, then we formulate whether it’s our opinion or plan, any of that. But we need to see that first,” she told the News and Tribune.

School districts use information from the tests to determine which classes students are placed into, depending on how much remediation they need or if they display exceptional mastery of concepts.

Many school officials say the lack of ISTEP+ data hasn’t hurt them because they’ve used internal data to determine where to place students.

But John Reed, assistant superintendent at West Clark Community Schools, acknowledged that having the ISTEP+ information would have helped.

“We do a lot of triangulation,” Reed said. “We assess with different tools to take a look at student performance from different perspectives. It’s always nice to have that additional look at a student to see how they’re performing, but it’s certainly not the end of everything.”

Kim Knott, superintendent of Clarksville Community Schools, said some details are difficult to determine without ISTEP+ data.

“We can’t set up remediation and intervention plans for our students without that information,” Knott said. “So we have to start off our school year behind the eight ball on that.”

One thing that has had to wait is the state-mandated school improvement plan. Those aren’t due until late September, but districts are waiting to see what the review of the ISTEP+ scores shows.

“For now, we’ve been in a holding pattern until we see what this review is going to look like,” Jensen said. “Once we know if these scores are valid or not, we’ll go from there.”

Andrew Melin, superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, said there is a lot of concern about how the interruptions affected students’ scores.

“I have a hard time believing that the scores have not been somewhat impacted by the fact that the test had these interruptions,” Melin said.

Reed said he’s not sure the results can carry much weight in regards to district, school or teacher performance.

“I just don’t see how there’s going to be much argumentation to support the validity and reliability of ISTEP as far as everything that occurred,” Reed said. “We’ll take whatever we get and deal with it, but there’s not going to be much to be said that will sway my opinion. That data needs to be carefully used if it’s going to be used for determining performance. I don’t see how it can be used as far as accountability of whether a teacher’s effective or not.”

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com