After lull, ISTEP+ testing back on track

Herald Staff Writer

After a rocky start last week, local schools are reporting that ISTEP+ testing has pretty much smoothed out.

That tough start, in which Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress testing was shut down and then slowed down, has affected schools’ regular schedules.

For the Northeast Dubois School Corp., the schedule is filled with testing through the end of next week.

“We are behind,” Camille Berg, guidance counselor at Dubois Middle School, said this morning. “Right now, ISTEP is what’s most important. Everything else has to take a back seat.”

The state’s original testing window was to end Friday. But that was extended to May 17 after schools had problems with students being kicked out of the online testing program in the middle of tests. This year, students in grades three through eight are taking the ISTEP+ tests online.

The problems started April 29, the first day of testing. By the afternoon of April 30, the Indiana Department of Education halted the testing until contractor CTB McGraw-Hill could fix the problem.
Testing resumed May 1, but districts were told to reduce their daily testing load by half. This past Monday, districts were able to take their testing load back to full capacity.

Northeast Dubois delayed the start of its testing period until late last week, whereas other school districts started earlier in the week.

Berg said the online system has improved, but is still slow. “It takes longer to log on and use the system,” she said. “So a test that would normally take a half-hour is taking, with logging in and instruction, an hour and 15 minutes. But it has gotten better as the week has gone on.”

Although the test is the school’s main focus right now, accommodations are being made to make sure students don’t miss out on other school activities. “We have been scheduling tests around field trips. But we have to make sure we have tested all the students who take the same test at the same time,” Berg said. “It makes it a little tricky at times. The state is very specific on when we give those tests and in what order.”

The district is also taking all of the school day to conduct tests. “In the past, we never tested in the afternoon, because studies show that kids do their best on tests in the morning,” Berg said. “But with all the issues that have been going on, we’ve been testing in the morning and afternoon.”

Students in the Southeast Dubois school district finished their tests Wednesday, according to the district’s testing coordinator, Pine Ridge Elementary School Principal Ryan Haas. “We will go through our final check soon,” he said this morning, “to make sure all of our students did finish testing and see who may have missed a test because of an absence.”

The district didn’t experience the multitude of problems other school districts did, he said. “Once the number of students at one time dropped, we didn’t see that many interruptions,” he said. “Being a smaller school, we were able to adjust our schedules to finish on time.”

Southwest Dubois students are just about done with testing, district test coordinator Sheral Stanton said this morning. Huntingburg and Holland elementary schools are finished and Southridge Middle School students were to complete their tests today, she said.

“Since we were able to resume, testing has gone quite well,” Stanton said. “Occasionally we’ve had a student get kicked off for 30 seconds or so, but the kids were able to jump back in and get back to work. Sometimes students are more resilient than the adults.”

Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools also will wrap its testing this week, schools confirmed.

“We did a lot of adjusting this year, but we made it work,” Tenth Street School Principal Kent Taylor said this morning. “We did not have to cancel our field trips or activities. We will still have our parent volunteer appreciation brunch Monday morning. Today is our last day of testing, not counting the makeup tests we will have for students who had to miss.”

“This week has been error-free, in my opinion,” Taylor said. “We have not had any more hiccups in the middle of tests, which would have been a problem.”

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