Scores on some parts of the 2015 ISTEP test given last spring will see small changes after a study found online tests in some subjects were more difficult than paper versions of the exam, mostly in math.
The Indiana State Board of Education voted to approve the changes Wednesday, which could mean score increases of between one and six points on some portions of the tests for some students, said board spokesman Marc Lotter.
Ed Roeber, a testing expert, told the board adjustments are needed for test scores that carry so much weight. In Indiana, student test scores factor into school A-F grades, teacher evaluations and decisions about whether schools should be taken over by the state.
“We felt that out of our desire to get it accurate, to be conservative and to show what students actually did … our recommendation was to make adjustments,” Roeber said.
No students will lose any points on ISTEP. Generally paper tests are easier for students, Roeber said, and test-makers should always be paying attention to whether the type of test ends up having an effect on student scores. Even a few points can push a student over the cut-off score between failing and passing.
“Even small differences would have an impact on students scores,” Rober said. “Not a lot, but a few points here or there. If a student is just about at a cut-score, it can put them over into the next category.”
In October, the board postponed a vote on ISTEP cut-off scores after early analysis of test questions showed there could be a difference in difficulty between the online and paper tests.
Michele Walker, the Indiana Department of Education’s testing director, said the state informed the U.S Department of Education about the score changes. Because the federal government handles the waiver that releases Indiana from sanctions of the No Child Left Behind law, it must be kept updated anytime something changes with state tests.
“We reached out to the (U.S. Department of Education) on Friday,” Walker said. “They were very positive … what they did say is that we were doing our due diligence as a state.”
Walker said things are moving along as expected with ISTEP scoring. Schools should expect student results in December. Then, the education department can continue calculating A-F grades, which the board is expected to approve in January.