Calculator usage puts thousands of ISTEP scores in jeopardy

June 21, 2017

ISTEP scores for thousands of students across the state are set to be thrown out this year, including at two Indianapolis private schools, according to state officials.

The mishap can be traced back to calculators. Students at 20 schools used calculators on a section of the 2017 ISTEP math test when they shouldn’t have—in at least one district because of incorrect instructions from Pearson Plc, the company that administers the tests in Indiana.

It’s a small glitch compared to the massive testing issues Indiana experienced with its previous testing company, CTB McGraw Hill. But years of problems have put teachers, students and parents on high alert for even minor hiccups. In 2013, for example, about 78,000 students had their computers malfunction during testing. Pearson began administering ISTEP in 2016.

Area schools affected are Saint Roch Catholic School and Trinity Christian School in Indianapolis, Eastern Hancock Elementary School in Charlottesville and Westfield Middle School in Westfield.

The calculator mix-up involving Pearson was first discovered at Rochester Community Schools, about two hours north of Indianapolis. About 700 students in three schools in the district received the incorrect instructions.

Molly Deuberry, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education, said that Rochester is the only district known to have received the incorrect instructions, but the state is also investigating calculator-related problems at 19 other schools.

According to federal rules, students who use calculators on non-calculator test sections must have their scores labeled as “undetermined.” Current sophomores will need to retake the test, since passing the 10th-grade exam is a graduation requirement in Indiana. Students will have multiple opportunities to do so, including during the summer, state officials said.

It’s not clear how the invalidated scores will affect those schools’ A-F letter grades. It is up to the Indiana State Board of Education to handle A-F grade appeals, which districts can request once grades are released.

“The Department and State Board will collaborate to ensure that the State Board receives sufficient detail about this incident when reviewing the appeals,” the education department said in an email.

Pearson spokesman Scott Overland said in an email that they would work with the education department to follow up on the calculator issues and correct their processes for next year.

“In some cases, Pearson inadvertently provided inaccurate or unclear guidance on the use of calculators during testing,” Overland said. “In these instances, we followed up quickly to help local school officials take corrective action.”

Here are the districts and schools the state said had students incorrectly use calculators on this year’s ISTEP:

— Covington Christian School, Covington
— Eastbrook South Elementary, Eastbrook Schools
— Eastern Hancock Elementary School, Eastern Hancock County Schools
— Emmanuel-St. Michael Lutheran School, Fort Wayne
— Frankfort Middle School, Frankfort Community Schools
— George M Riddle Elementary School, Rochester Community Schools
— Lasalle Elementary School, City of Mishawaka Schools
— New Haven Middle School, East Allen County Schools
— Rochester Community Middle School, Rochester Community Schools
— Rochester Community High School, Rochester Community Schools
— Saint Boniface School, Lafayette
— Saint Joseph High School, South Bend
— Saint Roch Catholic School, Indianapolis
— Silver Creek Middle School, West Clark Community Schools
— St. Louis de Montfort School, Lafayette
— Tennyson Elementary School, Warrick County Schools
— Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, School City of Hammond
— Trinity Christian School, Indianapolis
— Waterloo Elementary School, DeKalb County Schools
— Westfield Middle School, Westfield-Washington Schools

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.


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