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In an unprecedented joint committee of Indiana Senators and Representatives, the President of the company responsible for Indiana’s ISTEP+ Tests accepted responsibility for the botched testing that caused over 78,000 Hoosier students to have their ISTEP test sessions interrupted and disrupted by severe computer problems. At the start of a special legislative Education Commission, broadcast live on AM1310 The Light WTLC, Ellen Haley, President of CTB/McGraw Hill, a division of McGraw Hill Education began her testimony with a clear, unambiguous apology to Indiana residents and students. “Let me begin first, before I say anything else,” Haley told legislators and the radio audience, “By apologizing to you on behalf of myself and all of the employees of CTB, including the hundreds of people we have working for us right here in Indianapolis at our scoring facility.”  The twenty-five Senators and Representatives, Democrats and Republicans from all parts of the state listened attentively as Haley continued, “It is very disappointing to us to have this happen and to have this impact school children here in Indiana. So please accept my sincere apologies and regret that anything at all happened.”

In testimony that went nearly ninety minutes, Haley explained her company thought things would be fine.  Last year, Haley said, 60% of students took the second part of ISTEP on line.  Based upon that success they thought they could move to having 100% of students go on line.  Haley said her company conducted stress tests at 1,000 schools to test their systems and servers.  Haley said they also did pre-testing with 400,000 students. All with no problem.  But the morning on April 29th, they learned that there were problems. CTB discovered, said Haley, that their “backend servers and virtual servers” weren’t enough to handle the load and deal with the problem.  By April 30th, said Haley, CTB though they’d solved the problem by adding extra servers, but problems cropped up again.  Haley said they learned that they didn’t have enough “memory” to handle the volume of tests. Haley told the committee that there were 2.5 million test sessions done with the online ISTEP. But Haley acknowledged that 400,000 students had problems with some 78,219 experiencing interrupted test sessions.  Haley and two other CTB/McGraw Hill Education executives were grilled by committee members concerning how well prepared CTB was in administering on line tests; whether they understood the importance Indiana places on ISTEP tests; whether McGraw Hill Education’s recent sale to a private equity firm helped to cause the shortage of servers and memory.  Legislators, of both parties, raised questions about the whole concept and issue of high stakes testing.  Before Haley testified, Jon Barnes, a former legislator who now works for the Indiana Department of Education, told the committee that the State will be asking for McGraw Hill Education to pay some $613,600 in “damages” resulting from  the ISTEP mess. Included in that amount is the cost of the special review of the ISTEP problems ordered by superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. Click the Arrows Below to Hear the Testimony from CTB/McGraw Hill Officials as broadcast live on Amos & Abdul, the special Friday edition of Afternoons with Amos. Click Arrow To Hear Sue Haley’s Opening Statement and Initial Testimony and Q&A With Legislators. Runs 34 Minutes.    Click Arrow to Hear More Q&A Between Legislators and CTB/McGraw Hill Officials. Runs 18 Minutes.   Click Arrow To Hear Amos & Abdul Interview Sen. Greg Taylor (D) one of the committee members and Justin Ohlemiller, head of Stand for Children, a parents advocacy group. Runs 14 Minutes. All Audio ©2013 WTLC/Radio One.