ISTEP_test_issuesThe Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate passed final versions of SB 200 and HB 1003 on January 22 and Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the two bills into law last Thursday. These bills hold harmless schools, teachers and communities after the ISTEP+ (Indiana State Testing for Educational Progress +) results for the 2015 testing showed a 20 percent drop from the 2014-2015 scores when Indiana had made a transition to college and career ready academic standards. Indiana withdrew from federal Common Core standards and more stringent benchmarks were adopted.

The new laws spare teachers from having merit pay withheld if indeed their student’s scores dropped. Additionally, school grades cannot be worse.

Area superintendents shared some of their thoughts on the ISTEP testing that took place in 2015 and the legislation just passed. Superintendent Daniel Tyree, Plymouth Schools, said, “I feel confident that they passed the right legislation. This is the first step in having the testing in Indiana where it needs to be.” “Testing needs to be limited and done by companies that have great reputations for testing.” he added.

Tyree said he has appreciated how IN State Senator Ryan Mishler has addressed the subject and problems. Tyree said, “Mishler has spent time to talk to administrators and teachers as he did his investigation.”

Argos Schools Superintendent, Michele Riise said, “As any school corporation in the state of Indiana, I am very disappointed with the 2015  ISTEP assessment in terms of length of assessment, timing of results, changes to questions without quality amount of time to prepare students, and a lack of accurate measurement of student’s academic attainment.” “In addition, the current results do not only impact an individual student’s academic record, but it also has a negative impact on teacher evaluations, compensation, and school accountability grades.” Riise said.

According to the IDOE (Indiana Department of Education) school grades and school corporation grades will likely be made public following the State Board of Education meeting on January 26.

Riise commented on how the ISTEP scores and school grades impact the Argos community. She said, “In addition, there is a negative image of our school within our own and surrounding communities. I strongly feel that this past ISTEP assessment did not measure the success or academic achievement of our Argos students.” “This entire process reflected a political agenda; however, it did not adversely affect anyone but our students, parents, teachers, and our communities.” she said.

The 2015 testing was administered by CTB/McGraw-Hill. The company had technical difficulties and results were delayed several months when problems occurred and disparities were found between those taken on paper and those taken online.

Pearson Education will be administering the 2016 testing due to begin in February.

Carol Anders Correspondent