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No major testing headaches for ISTEP

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Area schools did not experience major disruptions during the opening week of online ISTEP+ testing — a welcome change from last year, and a surprise to local educators.

Bartholomew Consolidated and Flat Rock-Hawcreek school districts indicated they had braced for glitches when starting online testing last week.

That’s because problems with test vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill’s servers last year interrupted more than 80,000 students across the state, and practice and stress tests conducted earlier this year did not ease concerns.

Lisa Smith, principal at Hope Elementary, said her students encountered a few “please wait” messages, but that was to be expected.

Hope Elementary also had a few issues administering tests with accommodations for special education students, but Smith said it was not enough to cause alarm.

Superintendent Kathy Griffey said Hope Elementary students are just finishing up a few make-up exams, and the junior high grades start today with the math section. She said ISTEP+ testing will likely be completed this week.

“It’s a relief to have it happen smoothly,” Griffey said.

Samantha Harpring, testing coordinator for Bartholomew Consolidated schools, has been tracking this year’s number of error messages.

The district has made several adjustments, which Harpring said could be the reason students have experienced fewer technology problems this year.

After more than 1,200 of the 5,000 BCSC students tested last year experienced interruptions, the district petitioned the state to allow schools to administer the assessment on paper for most students.

About 30 percent of BCSC students are being tested online this year, compared with 80 percent last year, Harpring said.

Other large Indiana school districts — including Southwest Allen County Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools and Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis — have also reduced online testing this year.

Both local school districts have also invested in technology upgrades, which may have helped them avoid glitches this year. They have increased their Internet bandwidth, which allows more students to be online at the same time at higher speeds.

“We’re pleasantly surprised,” Harpring said.

Indiana Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman said Monday that testing across the state has gone smoothly. About 90 percent of Hoosier students are testing online this year, he said.

With one week left in the online testing window, Altman said more than 50 percent of scheduled tests have been completed.

“There’s nothing widespread, and that’s always very good news for our schools,” he said.

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