ISAT testing delays cumbersome but won’t affect average student

By Sarah Glenn

POCATELLO –– Students across Idaho will have to wait a little longer for their ISAT (Idaho Standards Achievement Test) 2.0 test results. A new Common Core curriculum in Idaho meant a new test for students – one that was introduced in classrooms just this year. While students and educators statewide were expecting results from the new Idaho Core Standards-aligned test on June 5, hiccups in the system mean that all the math tests are not scored yet. According to State Department of Education officials, Monday is the new day to watch for complete results.

“The initial delay was due to a lack of applicants to be graders,” said Jeff Church, Chief Communications Officer for the Idaho State Department of Education.

The State of Idaho contracted with Washington D.C.-based American Institutes for Research (AIR) to do the grading. AIR hires teachers from all across the United States to grade for them. Although AIR promised a 10-day turnaround, too few certified educators caused a backlog in grading. Specifically, they did not have enough certified educators who could grade the math tests for the fifth through eighth grades.

The math tests could have been graded by a computer like they are in other states, making them available faster. However, when Idaho policy makers approved the new test they stipulated that the math tests needed to be scored by hand, by a certified teacher.

“There are areas where artificial intelligence might not be as thorough,” Church said. “We wanted to ensure that each test received thorough and complete grading.”

The implications for the average local student are low, according to District 25 officials.

Kathy Luras, curriculum coordinator for District 25 says that they are still waiting on math scores for the 5th, 6th and 8th grades but other missing test results for District 25 are relatively few. For example, the district is only missing results for 26 10th graders district-wide. Statewide, 262,000 scores were collected as of Wednesday.

Once District 25 has all of the test results back from AIR, staff will upload them to the parents online portal. Luras says they are waiting for everyone’s scores to return before they release them.

“We want to release it when everyone can access it,” Luras said.

The delay means a return to the status quo for both students and educators in the Pocatello area, who are used to getting ISAT test results some time in July. The new ISAT, developed by Smarter Balanced Testing, was administered across the state to third- through eighth-graders and 10th graders between March 30 and May 22.

“It didn’t affect anybody’s graduation,” Luras said. “It’s just a delay.”

While students won’t be inconvenienced by the delay, educators, policy makers and parents are waiting for data that is expected to be very different.

“The new ISAT — obviously it is a new test and is designed to measure more complex thinking — a set of standards that are much more rigorous than what our previous standards were,” Chuck Orr, District 25 director of curriculum told the Journal in April. “Because of that we will have fewer students in the proficient and advanced categories compared to what we had before. … It’s not because they aren’t learning, but because it’s a different test measuring different things. Based on our track record with our old standards and our old ISAT where we show progress over time, I’m 100-percent confident to say that we will show the same kind of progress with the new standards and new test.”

The complete picture on how Idaho students did with the new standards and the new test will be available to the public sometime in mid to late October, Church said.

The results will also provide a starting point on a roadmap forward for local educators. Local school administration gather each August to review testing data and make adjustments to school goals, Luras said.

“Every August a key group of leaders delve into that data and base school improvement goals on that,” Luras said.

District officials are confident that the data will be available by the time that August meeting rolls around.

Idaho’s problems with new Common Core testing are relatively tame compared to those encountered in other states. Overloaded servers stopped the computer-heavy testing altogether in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota. Other states that encountered problems during the test include Indiana, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado. The Missouri Legislature banned the test in early June after legislative meetings descended into shouting matches with angry advocates. In June, Arkansas dropped its contract with a Common Core test developer and will instead use the ACT Aspire test.

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