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Fort Wayne schools want 3rd party to review ISTEP

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Indiana's largest school district says it won't accept results of this year's standardized testing until an independent third party validates the scores.

Fort Wayne Community Schools announced its position Wednesday in response to computer crashes and delays that frustrated many students during the testing period that began in late April, The Journal Gazette reported. School officials across the state have voiced concerns about the validity of this year's scores, which assess student knowledge and help determine school rankings and teacher merit pay.

A message left with a spokesman for test administrator CTB/McGraw Hill wasn't immediately returned. The company has said previously that it was working with state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz's office to check the validity of any test sessions that were disrupted.

Ritz acknowledged during a conference call with educators earlier this month that the scores could be in question and indicated a third-party review might be warranted.

"The general public and you, rightfully so, will feel the testing this year is not valid," Ritz said during the call. "So we are going to be wrestling with the validity of test scores."

The Indiana State Teachers Association also has expressed concern that the disruptions will lead to fallout against teachers, whose evaluations are tied to student performance.

Fort Wayne school officials said in a statement Wednesday that the ISTEP+ exam "should never have been given without making certain the testing company could handle the volume of online testing statewide."

"No school district would be allowed to violate the state's testing procedures without serious ramifications. We expect no less when it is the state's $95 million testing company that is at fault," the statement said.

This is the first year the Indiana Department of Education has required that the majority of ISTEP+ tests be administered online.

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.

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