7:20 p.m. update -- We recieved the following update Tuesday night from the Indiana Department of Education:
"Based upon assurances made by CTB McGraw Hill, the Indiana Department of Education is opening ISTEP+ testing tomorrow morning, Wednesday, May 1. In order to prevent further issues, the DOE is asking schools to decrease their daily test load to 50% of their normal levels until further notice. The DOE will work with local schools to ensure that they have the time they need to fairly administer the test. More detailed information will be released tomorrow."
Original story: On Tuesday Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz ordered testing halted after schools in South Bend, Mishawaka, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Carmel, Lafayette and other areas reported issues accessing the online portion of the ISTEP+ exam. The directive came a day after 27,000 students struggled to connect and complete the test.
Ritz said the issues were "unacceptable" and pledged that the Department of Education would work with schools to ensure they have enough time to administer the test once the problems are corrected.
"All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable," she said in a statement.
The glitches sparked concerns about the impact on students and teachers.
The Indiana State Teachers Association issued a statement Tuesday saying it wanted proof from Indiana officials that problems with the exam won't hurt teachers. The union noted that recent changes in state law have tied ISTEP+ results to school ratings, individual teacher evaluations and teachers' compensation.
Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community Schools, said the problems cast doubt on the validity of the test results.
"We will not get an accurate picture of how well students are doing," he told the Journal & Courier.
This is the third straight year that students in grades three through eight taking the online portion of the exam have encountered problems, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Vendor CBT/McGraw-Hill LLC had initially reported all testing systems were running fine Tuesday. But it changed its status as students began logging in and connection problems arose, urging schools to suspend testing until 12:30 p.m.
Ritz said about 150,000 test sessions were completed by 11 a.m. but that interruptions spiked a short time later.
Indianapolis Public Schools spokesman John Althardt said the problems were discouraging.
"There is so much buildup and expectation and anticipation about what the test means that any disruptions in the schedule and rhythm of testing for our students is frustrating for us," he said. "We feel we've done our best to prepare our students and schools and then when we're unable to conduct this testing, it's a source of frustration."
In 2011, up to 10,000 students statewide were logged off and some were unable to log back in for up to an hour while taking the test. The state invalidated 215 scores that year because they were lower than expected.
About 9,000 students were kicked offline during the test last year.
The contract requires McGraw-Hill to provide "uninterrupted" computer availability every school day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the two weeks prior to each testing window, as well as for the entire testing window.
The following release was issued Tuesday by the state superintendent's office:
INDIANAPOLIS – In response to system errors that prevented schools throughout the state from completing their ISTEP+ testing today, Glenda Ritz, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction issued the following statement:
“I am greatly disappointed to learn that Indiana schools had their ISTEP+ testing interrupted for a second consecutive day. Like all Hoosier parents, students and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable.
“We have been constantly monitoring the situation this morning. Between approximately 7:30 and 11:00 over 150,000 test sessions were completed. At approximately 11:15 AM, there was a spike in test interruptions.
“Because of these errors, I have instructed the Department of Education to suspend testing for the remainder of the day. This decision was not made lightly, but was done to minimize further disruptions for our schools. All of our students deserve to take a test that is valid, accurate and reliable.
“At this time, CTB McGraw-Hill believes that testing will be able to continue tomorrow. I will communicate with schools directly regarding the timeframe to resume testing.
“The Indiana Department of Education is working with the company that administers the test to ensure that the rest of the test is administered smoothly and efficiently. We will also conduct a thorough review to determine the exact cause of this issue. Finally, we will also work with local schools so that they have the time they need to administer a fair test for all Hoosier students.”