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THE LAST WORD

FWCS makes a stand against ISTEP+ with valid concerns

Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 12:01 am

How would you like it if as a teacher your job evaluation and your pay relied on the results of a single test taken by your students — a test with unreliable results?

Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson spoke with us earlier this week upon release of a two-page memorandum that was the district’s response to the April meltdown of the ISTEP testing in Fort Wayne and other districts across the state. The gist of the response was, “We will not stand by and be victims of this broken system.”

Robinson maintains that one exam — “one broken system” — should not be used as the measure of all educational standards to help determine school and district grades, teacher evaluations and pay, and the ability for students to get vouchers.

Many schools suspended the first day of ISTEP+ online testing on April 29 because of computer issues that kicked many students off the exam. Testing was halted in several districts across the state. Indiana Department of Education officials said 27,000 students in grades 3-8 were affected (12,000 took the test in FWCS).

Vendor CBT/McGraw-Hill could not complete the online portion of the testing because of problems that forced the process to be suspended multiple days and eventually completed last week.

Robinson’s meeting with The News-Sentinel this week was essentially to declare that “Fort Wayne Community Schools refuses to accept ISTEP+ scores for 2013 unless and until they can be validated by a legitimate, independent third party.”

FWCS will be asking state legislators to “pause” any sanctions related to the ISTEP test in the same way they paused implementation of Common Core.

“We are not going to wait for the results to come back to begin a dialogue about this problem,” Robinson said. “Even if the scores show improvement,” Robinson said, “you have to question their validity.”

The illustrations presented by FWCS in their memorandum give a pretty good example of why this year’s test results might not be reliable:

“Once the test would resume, students would hurry through … to try to answer as many as possible before it crashed again.”

“Student was testing … The computer then … shut down. The student was only on No. 15 of the test. When the student moved computers … the test would not allow her back in. The test stated it was complete.”

“Four elementary students were never able to complete the online tests after repeated attempts over the three weeks and had to take the paper and pencil exam at the end of the testing window.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz told administrators and teachers during a teleconference on May 3 that she, too, wants to see a third party validate the test scores.

That seems like the least that should be done.

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.