Superintendent: Delay in ISTEP results unacceptable

Discrepancy in scores between the online and written versions of the ISTEP+ test has caused delays and frustration among educators.

The results for ISTEP+ are behind schedule, and Warrick County School Coorporation Superintendent Brad Schneider says the delay is unacceptable.

“Our kids and teachers worked so hard to prepare for that test,” he said. “We’re going to be through basically half of the next school year before we get those results back. That is unacceptable on every level, and if the state can’t do a better job of administering the ISTEP+ test, then they shouldn’t do it. We’re very disappointed and we have been disappointed from day one.”

The delay is due to a discrepancy in scores between the online and written versions of the test. Usually scores are expected back by early fall, but now it is uncertain when the results will be released. Schneider suspects they won’t see the ISTEP+ results until December at the earliest.

Cut scores, which determine how many students pass or fail the test, were just established Wednesday. To account for the disparity in the online and written versions, state board members will consider modifying scores by adding bonus points, which will only have a slight effect on overall results.

“They just want to set cut scores that determine a certain percent of kids are going to fail and a certain percent are going to pass,” said Schneider. “I don’t understand that. It should be set at a place that shows mastery or doesn’t show mastery.”

According to Schneider, a delay in scores calls into question the effectiveness of the standardized test. The longer it takes to receive feedback, the more likely students’ retention decreases. Also, with a vastly different test from the year before, it’s difficult to compare the 2013-14 ISTEP with the 2014-15 version.

ISTEP+ results factor into a school’s accountability, such as the letter grades they receive from the state each year. The test may also play a role in teacher evaluations, and in turn, teacher pay. With the first year of the new test, scores are already expected to be lower than in years past, but Schneider insists there are other assessments created by WCSC teachers in place to measure standards for students, which will provide expedient evaluations.

“The reliability and validity of this test are called into question,” he said. “We assess our students in more ways than just ISTEP. Any time you test, the most important thing you do is give the kids feedback. You can only do that when that feedback is given in a timely manner. I don’t know anyone who would think getting results back a semester after the test is taken is timely.”

A delay in results is not the first issue ISTEP+ has encountered either. The test was administered late due to the state rejecting Common Core Standards and adopting its own, which allowed little preparation for the test. Students also experienced technical difficulties while answering the online version, similar to the issues experienced the previous year.

Among all the problems with ISTEP+, Schneider claims there is a lack of communication from the Indiana State Board of Education.

“We know nothing,” he said. “Superintendents and administrators get as much information from newspapers as we do from the people in Indianapolis.”

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