Ritz Surprises Board With ISTEP Settlement Announcement
State board again complains they weren't told; settlement was done 10 months ago
Aug. 06, 2014
The state school superintendent has settled with the maker of ISTEP over problems with last year's exam, but the way the State Board of Education found out about the settlement might cause more problems.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz surprised the board with the announcement in the midst of a discussion of the new ISTEP that will be given to students this school year to match Indiana's new academic standards. Ritz says the settlement was completed in October of 2013, though earlier this year her office said there was still no settlement in place. The settlement amount is $3 million, though the state will not receive any cash from CTB McGraw-Hill - the settlement includes a discount on future services and in-kind additional services from CTB. Ritz had cited the company for problems that many students experienced with the online portion of ISTEP in the spring of 2013.
Most board members have long complained that Ritz and her department too often withhold information from board members on important matters, and the board finding out about the settlement 10 months after it took place did not help. "Educational governance works best when there's ongoing dialogue and transparency so we understand fully where we've been, where we are right now, and how those things impact where we need to get to," said board member Brad Oliver. Other board members complained that Oklahoma not only received cash from CTB McGraw-Hill for similar testing problems, Oklahoma dropped the company altogether.
Ritz defended the settlement, saying that had they gone after a cash settlement, the most the state could have received was $350,000. "I haven't done anything different, nor has the department in its role, with contracts that has not been done by every superintendent prior to me," Ritz said. Board member Dan Elsener disputed that. "I've worked with three superintendents, and frankly assessment is so important that when we talked about the concepts, (it wasn't) 'we didn't negotiate the bits and pieces.' Yes, we did," Elsener said.
Ritz added that her department used a staff attorney from Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office to work on the settlement last year, something else board members say they didn't know.