Legislators working on compromise to new ISTEP replacement

By Katie Stancombe
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – House and Senate members came together Wednesday to discuss how to develop a more effective replacement for ISTEP.

House Bill 1003 would require third through eighth graders to complete a new statewide assessment called ILEARN, which for the next three years would be the same as ISTEP — just branded with a new name.

Hoosier students would take the statewide assessment on a computer at the end of the school year, keeping it within a single window of time.

Author of the bill, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said he hopes to come up with a compromise that will leave the responsibility of choosing a new test to the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, author of bill to replace ISTEP
Photo by Shelby Mullis, TheStatehouseFile.com

“The end goal, hopefully, is to let them have their opportunity to let their knowledge and staff have access to put together a plan that would be workable,” Behning said.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, said it’s time for the committee to sit back and look at the impact ISTEP has made over the past several years.

“I think we’ve lost sight of what testing is about,” McNamara said. “What are we trying to test for? What’s our purpose?”

McNamara said if the committee wants genuine value in the testing process, legislators have to get the new test right.

Rep. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, agreed.

Leising said she thinks two things should happen – temporarily remove teacher’s evaluations from student assessments and choose an off-the-shelf test so Hoosier students can be compared to their peers from other states.

“We’ve got to come up with something that’s valuable, that allows the teachers to know how the kids are performing,” Leising said. “I think we need to know as our kids progress from K-12 how they’re going to be able to compete effectively if they choose to go to college.”

Chris Himsel, superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Fort Wayne, echoed comments made about decoupling tests from teacher evaluations, as well as including the State Board of Education in determining the best test for Hoosier students.

He said his district also wants to redefine the purpose of testing and have a mechanism in place that works for students and teachers alike.

“From a teacher and administrator perspective, the current mechanism is a nightmare,” Himsel said. “From an adult perspective it’s far, far worse. From a kid perspective, it’s far, far better. That’s the way I’d prefer it, but it’s still very unwieldy.”

Katie Stancombe is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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