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IT shouldn’t take a rocket scientist or any other form of above average intelligence to acknowledge that the computer glitch fiasco during the most recent ISTEP+ testing period had a marked impact on a significant number of students.
That is a recognition of the facts that should be kept in mind by state education officials in the next testing period and motivate them to take whatever steps are required to make sure similar incidents do not happen again.
Based on evaluations by officials in the Department of Education, it is not entirely clear that they have acknowledged the degree of the problems created this past spring when a series of computer glitches either knocked thousands of test takers offline or caused momentary disruptions in concentration.
In an analysis commissioned by the state, for instance, researchers suggested that only 300 students in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. experienced test-halting disruptions. Local school officials disagreed, and their differences with the state findings are significant. According to BCSC administrators, 1,237 students were directly affected by the computer problems.
Obviously this is not an apples or oranges comparison. With so much importance attached to the ISTEP+ tests for both students and schools, any break in concentration is a very serious matter. These are young minds, and while they might be resilient, many have not attained the level of mental discipline to help them deal with such breaks in concentration.
Both John Quick and Kathy Griffey, superintendents of the Bartholomew Consolidated and Flat Rock-Hawcreek school corporations, agree test scores for students and schools in their corporations would have been much higher had it not been for the disruptions.
As it is, students and schools in both entities did remarkably well under the trying circumstances. Schools in the Flat Rock-Hawcreek district saw overall improvement in the percentage of students who had passed the test from the previous year. Seven of 13 schools in BCSC posted passing scores that were better than the state average.
Students and teachers in both systems deserve praise for their adaptability in dealing with the problems, but it is not an asset that should be a requisite in taking such important tests. This exercise should be conducted glitch-free. Responsibility for that rests with the Indiana Department of Education and the vendors who provide the testing formats.
The system is not broken to the point that students and schools revert to the paper and pencil method of test taking, although some educators maintain that students do better in such a format. For instance, BCSC got special permission from the state in 2012 to revert to a standardized form of testing on paper because of another set of computer glitches the previous year. Columbus Signature Academy — Fodrea Campus, for instance, improved its passing percentage in English and math from 54 percent in 2011 to
84 percent in 2012.
Education has progressed too far in electronic media to give up the advances that have been achieved. Despite those technological advances, however, one basic rule still holds — the test givers have to get it right.
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