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ISTEP exam results being delayed by grading troubles

August 5, 2015

The results of this year's Indiana standardized student tests are being delayed by a month or more as the testing company struggles to complete grading the exams.

The president of McGraw-Hill Education CTB told State Board of Education members Wednesday that changes made to this spring's ISTEP test have pushed back its grading work. That means schools and parents likely won't receive results from exams that were completed in May until at least mid-December.

It is the latest struggle with the ISTEP exam after it became the center of an outcry from parents and educators in February over longer testing times.

That problem and the grading delays are being blamed on the exam being redesigned to align with new state standards created after legislators and Gov. Mike Pence withdrew Indiana from the national Common Core standards last year.

Ellen Haley, president of McGraw-Hill Education CTB, told board members the company was working to make sure students were getting credit for all possible correct responses for about 100 online questions in which they were required to complete a task rather than just select an answer.

"I don't think it's a failing on our part," Haley said. "I think it's just the reality of students now on computers for the first time doing things in different ways."

Some board members weren't satisfied with Haley's response, pointing to troubles McGraw-Hill has had with its administration of the ISTEP exam in recent years.

The company reached a $3 million settlement with the state Department of Education over widespread disruptions as thousands of students were kicked off their online exams in 2013. British testing company Pearson has been picked to develop the 2016 exams for some 450,000 students in grades 3 through 8.

Education Department officials said they hoped to present score information to the board on Oct. 14 so that pass-fail marks could be approved. Haley said it would then take about eight weeks to compile individual student results.

Board member Steve Yager said the ISTEP results are key for determining teacher pay raises and improvement plans. He said the state should look into withholding payment to McGraw-Hill because it has failed to deliver "time after time after time."

"Girls and boys are just being damaged and teachers are being damaged by the ineffective practices of your company," Yager told Haley.

Board member Gordon Hendry said the ISTEP scoring delay was a ripple effect from the decision in early 2014 to adopt new state standards less than two months after Indiana abandoned the Common Core benchmarks.

Haley said the company had to completely revamp the test and sort out ineffective questions.

"This is the nature of switching so dramatically ... to new standards and a new test," she said. "There is nothing left over from the previous test."

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