Differences Between Online, Paper ISTEP Vex Indiana


Indiana’s State Board of Education has delayed the approval of cut scores for the ISTEP exam after information was released by the state Department of Education that brought into question differences between the online exam and the version taken on paper.

A recently-released report from the Department of Education suggests that a large number of differences exist between the online version and the test taken on paper with a pencil.  According to a press release from the State Board of Education, the report, created on October 2, was not released until this week, long after the information was known, reports Brittany Lewis for RTV6.

“It is unfortunate that information that is more than two weeks old was not provided to the State’s independent experts and Board members until the night before the Board meeting,” Mark Lotter, Director of External Relations for the Indiana State Board of Education said in the release issued Wednesday morning.

“In light of this new information, the Board will likely delay the cut score setting process until the experts have time to properly review the material and answer their questions about the test,” he said.

According to the report, some of the questions found on the paper and pencil version of the ISTEP test, given to students in grades three through eight in the state, were easier than the corresponding questions on the online version.

Technical committee member Karla Egan said while she believes everything to be okay, she would still feels that a comparability report should be put together before the board sets cut scores, the line that determines whether students pass or fail the exam.

Board member Sarah O’Brien said enough issues were raised by teachers and administrators concerning the differences among the tests that she began to wonder if two sets of cut scores would be needed.  “I need these answers verified before I vote for one cut score,” O’Brien said. “I don’t have that level of confidence.”

Others, such as the director of student assessment for the Indiana Department of Education Michele Walker, feel the tests are comparable, adding that a comparison of the two exams are done every year and that it is separate from the cut score process, writes Niki Kelly for The Journal Gazette.

Pass rates for the exam were set lower this year than those seen on the 2014 test.  If no changes are made this year, the calculations show that 16% fewer students would pass the English exam and 24% fewer would pass math.

However, DOE spokesman Daniel Altman said the two years cannot be compared because they are based on two separate sets of academic standards.

The issue will be brought to the board’s attention again at the October 28 meeting, which was already set to discuss a separate topic.

10 16, 2015