NewsPublic Affairs / August 10, 2016

Education Department Seeks $4 Million In Damages After ISTEP Debacle

The state accuses CTB, now Data Recognition Corporation, of not living up to contractual duties after the company substantially delayed releasing 2015 ISTEP+ scores.Indiana Department of Education, CTB, Indiana State Board of Education, ISTEP+, Data Recognition Corporation2016-08-10T00:00:00-04:00
Education Department Seeks $4 Million In Damages After ISTEP Debacle

At Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting, state superintendent Glenda Ritz said the state is seeking $4 million in damages from the state’s former testing vendor.

file photo

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Education is seeking $4 million in damages from the company that created last year’s problem-filled ISTEP+ test.

The state accuses CTB, now Data Recognition Corporation, of not living up to contractual duties after the company substantially delayed releasing 2015 ISTEP+ scores.

At Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting, state superintendent Glenda Ritz said the state sent a letter to the Califonia-based testing company asking for damages. Indiana’s four-year, $95 million contract with CTB, entitles the department to damages, should the company fail to perform.

“We have been expecting a response regarding that demand letter,” Ritz said. “We have not yet received a response.”

A provision in the CTB testing contract caps damages at 10 percent, or about $2.3 million. Ritz said the a request of $4 million dollars is “appropriate” because of damages the state sustained during last school year.

Since ISTEP+ scores play heavily into formulas that calculate student grades, school ratings, teacher evaluation and teacher pay, the delays set off a chain reaction throughout the state, prompting the General Assembly to take action to minimize the damage.

Department spokesperson Daniel Altman said the department has been working with the attorney general, but no lawsuit has formally been filed.

“We’re obviously still reserving any rights that we may have, should things get to that point,” Altman said.

In the letter sent to CTB, written by state lawyer Bernice Corley, the department blames CTB for incurring at least $11.5 million in damages to the state.

“While the contract caps liquidated damages at 10% of the contract amount, that amount cannot begin to make Indiana whole,” Corley wrote.

He said CTB left the state struggling to protect teachers and students.

“The delay was so disruptive to Indiana that the General Assembly had to take action during the legislative session following the administration of the ISTEP+ test to limit harm to teachers,” Corley wrote.

During CTB’s contract with Indiana, the state was plagued with testing problems.

In 2013, schools suspend testing for multiple days when tests malfunctioned; the company blamed it on server problems. Such disruptions led to a $3 million settlement with CTB.

The state currently contracts with Pearson Education to administer 2016 and 2017 tests.

At Wednesday’s SBOE meeting, members expressed disappointment in Pearson’s current handing of test scoring. Pearson released 2016 4th grade math ISTEP+ scores to schools and parents, which included scores for a test question that should have been omitted.

After they caught they error, Pearson sent notice that they would send updated test scores. Almost 20,000 students scores will change. As a result, 152 students were originally told they passed, when they did not.

Superintendent Ritz said Pearson should have followed certain quality checks to avoid sending out wrong scores.

“Should that quality check have been done prior to the release of scores sent out to parents? Yes,” Ritz said. “Definitively, yes.”

Board member Lee Ann Kwiatkowski also called Pearson “very lazy” for sending out a spreadsheet with student secure access codes.

 

 

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