Panel: No widespread impact from error

HANCOCK COUNTY — A review panel investigating allegations of widespread scoring errors on last spring’s ISTEP tests found no evidence results were impacted by a grading malfunction, but local school administrators say the announcement, which comes on the heels of a string of delays in releasing scores, offers little relief.

The Indiana Department of Education and State Board of Education organized a team of independent education experts to look into the grading process after several anonymous scoring supervisors claimed a glitch could have impacted thousands of test scores.

The allegation followed months of criticism from administrators, teachers and parents over last spring’s test, which is based on more rigorous standards than recent years. Scores from the assessment, which was administered to students in Grades 3 through 8 last spring, are expected to drop 24 percentage points in mathematics and 16 points in language arts, according to projections from the Department of Education.

Official scores, which the Department of Education has yet to release, were supposed to be provided in August but have been delayed several times after the state found a scoring issue between different versions of the exam.

In a report released Wednesday, the panel concluded that, while the alleged malfunction had no identifiable impact on student scores as a whole, individual student results could have been affected.

The report cites several circumstances that hampered the investigation. ISTEP scoring concluded more than six months ago, which prevented a more thorough review of the precise circumstances surrounding the alleged grading malfunction, the report states.

Jim Bever, principal at Greenfield Intermediate School, said he’s relieved test results won’t be delayed further, but he’s losing faith in the value of the assessment.

“It gives us no greater confidence in the scores,” Bever said. “Given the drastic changes that came with this new test, I’m not sure how reliable they’ll be to assess students or to evaluate teachers.”

Bever said the ordeal has been particularly tough for teachers, whose pay and performance evaluations hinge on how their students fare on the test.

“It’s been agonizing for them,” he said. “It’s just demoralizing. I know how hard they’ve worked, and these scores aren’t going to be an accurate reflection of how hard their students have worked.”

Rhonda Fada, fourth-grade teacher at Greenfield Intermediate, worries about how students who are typically high achievers will react if they don’t pass the test.

“I feel sorry for them, because the rules changed, and there was nothing they could do about it,” Fada said. “I don’t think this will showcase what our kids have actually accomplished.”

And while she’s eager to receive her class’s final results, it won’t have much value in terms of preparing for the upcoming round of ISTEP testing, which will begin in March.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or