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Online Testing Problems Emerge in Indiana, Other States

Officials in Indiana were forced to suspend statewide online tests for a second straight day after technical problems derailed the system, in the latest mishap to plague statewide assessments around the country in recent weeks.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said the administrator of the statewide exams, CTB/McGraw Hill, was confident that theIndiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus could resume on Wednesday.

But she also vowed to conduct a review to pinpoint the cause of the breakdown.

"Like all Hoosier parents, students, and teachers, I find these interruptions frustrating and unacceptable," said Ritz, elected to her post last year, in a statement.

The Indiana testing breakdowns come not long after serious assessment problems emerged in Minnesota and Oklahoma. (See my colleague Andrew Ujifusa's report on those mishaps.)

And the testing woes have emerged at an inopportune time for backers of online testing. States and school districts are already nervous about the costs and technological challenges of putting in place online assessments to match the Common Core State Standards, and the current round of testing woes seems likely to only heighten that anxiety.

Another possible complication: Indiana has emerged as a hotbed for anti-common core activity, at least in the statehouse. A bill to slow down the state's implementation of the standards cleared the legislature and has been sent to Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican. Whether the latest testing problems feed into the common-core opposition remains to be seen.

On Tuesday, all systems were apparently normal for the ISTEP between 7:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Students around the state successfully completed more than 150,000 test during that time span. But at 11:15 a.m. came a sudden "spike in test interruptions," as Ritz put it.

Ritz said the decision to postpone all remaining testing was done to ensure that the remainder of the exams were given in a way that is "fair, accurate, and reliable."

In a second statement released Tuesday, Indiana department of education officials said they expected testing to resume on Wednesday "based upon assurances made by McGraw Hill." But the state also asked districts to go slowly in ramping up the tests again:

"In order to prevent further issues, the DOE is asking schools to decrease their daily test load to 50 percent 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."

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