Calculator confusion on ISTEP+ test means some students will have to retake part of test

Pad, pencils and calculator

ROCHESTER, Ind. – Some Rochester students will have to retake part of their ISTEP+ test after using a calculator on a non-calculator part of the mathematics assessment.

The Rochester School Corporation contacted the Indiana Department of Education after realizing the error. Some students used a calculator because the district received inaccurate guidance from the test vendor. While some teachers caught the error, others didn’t. The issue arose at numerous school districts around the state, the department said.

The department attributed the problem to Pearson, the test vendor:

Rochester School Corporation has been cooperative, and was one of the first schools to identify and work with the DOE to address this problem. Superintendent Jana Vance and the staff have devoted hours to helping the State hold Pearson, the testing company responsible for the role it played in causing these problems for thousands of Indiana students.

The issue affected about 700 students at the elementary, middle and high schools in Rochester. Students without an accommodation allowing the use of a calculator will have the results of that portion of the test labeled as “undetermined.” State education officials said requirements from the U.S. Department of Education mean the rest results must be invalidated. The score will be noted as “UND” on the results.

Sophomore students affected by the problem will have to retake that part of the test before so they can graduate. The district will offer several chances for those students to do so.

The invalidated test results could affect the school’s accountability grade, the department said. State education officials are working with the district in hopes of minimizing the impact.

The Department of Education provided the following guidelines for the district:

  • Rochester may have a high volume of undetermined mathematics results due to the invalidation, which in turn leave proficiency rates and growth scores to be based on a small subset of the overall school population in 2016-17, and student test results from the 2015-16 school year.
  • It is important to note that it is not yet known what impact these invalidations will have on accountability scores for the schools. The Department will continue to communicate with the school corporation and provide preliminary information to the corporation as it becomes available, and assist schools in next steps.
  • The Department does not have any authority under current statutes to address or rectify this concern; however, the State Board of Education conducts an appeals process for schools that believe the final A-F letter grade does not accurately reflect the school’s performance, growth, or multiple measures, as applicable. Specifically, a school or school corporation may petition for review of its A-F grade based on “objective factors the school or school corporation considers relevant because the annual assessment data do not accurately reflect the school performance, growth, or multiple measures, as applicable.” Objective measures may include significant demographic changes in the student population, errors in data or other significant issues. The Department and State Board will collaborate to ensure that the State Board receives sufficient detail about this incident when reviewing the appeals.