Around 10:20 a.m. Thursday, students at Cortland Elementary School who were taking the ISTEP+ stress test experienced freezing computer screens.
Those 19 fourth-graders, along with other students at Seymour Community Schools and schools across the state, noticed glitches just a month after the last stress test was declared a failure by many educators.
Thursday’s issues also came 13 days before Part I of the ISTEP+ testing window opens.
“When you put students in a testing situation, you want things to be flawless,” said Diane Altemeyer, principal of Cortland Elementary School and testing coordinator for Seymour Community Schools. “Unlike pencil and paper, using online puts you at the mercy of the company that provides the test.”
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The provider of that test is CTB/McGraw-Hill, which uses the stress test to determine if the computer systems at Hoosier school districts are able to connect to the company’s servers. Stress tests also allow the company to see if their servers can handle the high volume to avoid problems that might arise during the actual ISTEP+ test.
“This is not a student test. It’s a readiness test to make sure that the software and our computers are working,” Altemeyer said.
The stress test, given between 10 and 11 a.m. in the computer lab at Cortland, was overseen by Altemeyer and teachers.
Everything was going smoothly for students until the 10:20 a.m. mark when they started having issues with freezing computer screens. Other students involved with the stress test at Seymour and other school districts across the state also experienced problems 20 minutes into the testing period.
Altemeyer said the kids tried to resolve the issues by rebooting the computer they were using or switching to different computers.
“Overall, it was not as bad as the January test, but it’s still not ideal as far as the computers working correctly,” she said.
The initial stress test Jan. 10 proved to be a failure at schools across state.
Altemeyer said there were no problems that day from 9 to 10 a.m., but at 10 a.m. none of the computers would connect, and computers locked up, stopping anyone from logging into the system.
“Every school corporation in the state of Indiana was scheduled to test their computers at 10 a.m., and they all quit working,” she said.
She said corrections were made by the company, and that was the purpose of trying it out a second time Thursday.
Principal Tom McCool said students at Brownstown Elementary School noticed some hiccups, too, though the situation was much better than last month.
Their stress test relied on a mixture of grade levels using Chromebooks. Like Cortland, freezing computer screens occurred around 10:20 a.m.
Unlike last month, however, students were able to continue and finish, just a lot slower than expected.
“Last time, it kicked kids off. But this time, kids were able to stay on and move forward,” McCool said. “I’m much more pleased than in the past.”
During the stress test, students could scroll through an array of questions and were able to ask questions of the teacher and chat, much different from what will happen Feb. 25 when the window for the first part of ISTEP+ testing begins.
Altemeyer said that, even though they are not graded on the stress test, it’s a way for students to become comfortable with the computer process.
“We’re using it as an instructional tool for students so they can have exposure and experience with the new test,” she said.
This year’s test will have technology-enhanced items on it, steering away from the multiple choice, one-click answers. For example, questions can have multiple answers, different parts (part A and part B) and drag-and-drop answers, and students will have to create graphs and grids.
“I don’t know that it’s anything they can’t do. It’s just different,” she said.
Crothersville and Medora schools both reported delays Thursday but nothing significant.
Chrystal Street, principal at Medora Community Schools, said there was some slight freezing of computers when students were trying to click on an answer, but they were able to continue the test just fine.
Altemeyer said she’s hoping to hear from the testing company soon to receive feedback on the problems that arose.
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“When you put students in a testing situation, you want things to be flawless. Unlike pencil and paper, using online puts you at the mercy of the company that provides the test.”
Diane Altemeyer, principal of Cortland Elementary School and testing coordinator for Seymour Community Schools, on ISTEP+ testing