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State seeks $4M from testing company for ISTEP glitches, delays

August 10, 2016

The Indiana Department of Education is seeking $4 million in damages from the company that created last year’s problem-plagued ISTEP test.

The state blames California-based CTB for the scoring problems and technical glitches that led to delays in releasing last year’s test results.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz today told the Indiana State Board of Education that the state had sent a letter to CTB making the request for damages but has not received a response. Spokesman Daniel Altman said the state is working with the attorney general’s office, but a lawsuit has not been filed.

The letter, written by state lawyer Bernice Corley, notes that the state’s contract with CTB included penalties for each day the scores were delayed. The penalties would have added up to $11.5 million were it not for language in the contract that limited damages to about $2.3 million.

Corley argued in the letter that the state’s significant expenses warranted a $4 million payment.

“The $4 million number was arrived at with an understanding of what the cap of the contract is but also with an understanding of the amount of damage that the department itself went through,” Altman said.

Corley wrote that CTB was expected to deliver score results by September 2015, but didn’t deliver them to the state until October.

“While the contract caps liquidated damages … that amount cannot begin to make Indiana whole,” Corley wrote. “Accordingly, IDOE demands $4M in damages from CTB for failure to timely deliver (test results), as well as the delay caused by the rescore in full and final resolution of all disputed issues between IDOE and CTB.”

Scores for the 2015 ISTEP scores were delayed in part because of reported problems with grading new computer-enhanced questions that allow students to manipulate the information on screen in ways that were impossible on prior tests.

Those scoring problems ultimately derailed the entire scoring process, delaying the release of exam results. The delay forced the state to postpone the release of A-F school accountability grades and to ban, for one year, the use of student test results in evaluating and paying teachers.

The Indiana General Assembly passed “hold harmless” legislation swiftly during the first few weeks of the legislative session in January.

“The delay was so disruptive to Indiana that the General Assembly had to take action during the legislative session following the administration of the ISTEP+ test to limit harm to teachers who were at risk of not receiving a performance award,” Corley wrote.

This was the fourth time ISTEP issues could be traced back to problems at CTB. In April 2013, 16 percent of all Indiana students taking ISTEP, about 78,000 students, experienced interruptions during their tests. That year, letter grades weren’t released until December.

In 2011 and 2012, about 10,000 and 9,000 students, respectively, had online testing issues. Because of the interruptions in 2013, the state and CTB came to a settlement for $3 million.

Altman said the state no longer has any testing contracts with CTB.

Chalkbeat reached out to representatives from CTB, which is now part of the Data Recognition Corporation, and McGraw-Hill Education, but did not immediately receive a response to a request for comment.

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