- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A review panel has found a computer glitch had no discernible impact on the critical ISTEP standardized tests for Indiana students in third through eighth grades, the Indiana Department of Education said Wednesday.

However, the panel said in its report issued this week that some individual students’ tests possibly were scored inaccurately. The panel said a better assessment of the issue was impossible since the problem occurred in the spring.

The panel of three experts conducted the review for the state using data provided by CTB McGraw Hill, the testing vendor for the exams also known as ISTEP+.

“An expert panel’s independent review of the data provided by CTB finds no evidence that students were erroneously given a lower score on the Spring 2015 ISTEP+,” the report said.

Final results for the spring exams given to 500,000 students have not been released amid concerns that changes may have led to significant drops in scores. The Indiana Department of Education has said average math scores are expected to drop by 24 percentage points and English scores by 16 percentage points.

ISTEP scores are a factor in schools’ annual performance evaluations in which they are given A-F letter grades by the state. The scores also can affect teacher raises.

The Indiana Department of Education asked CTB to investigate whether a computer malfunction was causing grades to be changed after The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this month that it received an anonymous letter about the problem. Ellen Haley, executive vice president of McGraw-Hill Education CTB, responded that the company’s data monitoring and double-checks of some individually scored questions did not indicate an impact on student scores.

Despite the conclusions of the review, Indiana schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz said she still believes schools and teachers should not be penalized because of this year’s ISTEP scores, which were lower than in previous years due to a new test based on more rigorous academic standards.

“I am pleased that independent assessment experts found no evidence that the scoring process used by CTB McGraw-Hill negatively impacted student scores,” Ritz said. “Unfortunately, due to the high-stakes nature of the (ISTEP) assessment, any doubt about testing validity causes a ripple effect through our schools and our communities.”

Ritz also has said the Education Department would ensure that every student gets the score they earned.

“I remain committed to ensuring that every student receives proper credit for their performance,” Ritz wrote in a letter to school administrators.

Gov. Mike Pence also said the scores on this year’s tests should not affect teacher pay or school performance, a spokesman said.

“The governor … will continue to work with legislative leaders to ensure that test scores do not affect teacher bonuses or compensation and that schools are treated fairly,” spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a statement.


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