The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 1:00 am

General Assembly

Schools get test-score reprieve in floor votes

House OKs bills to pause, end evaluation practices

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – With two unanimous votes, the Indiana House on Monday backed away from several accountability measures related to student test scores.

The chamber first approved House Bill 1001, a two-year measure that holds teachers and schools harmless from drops in test scores related to A-F grades and bonuses.

Then it tacked on a 100-0 vote for House Bill 1002, which ended a state policy of tying teacher evaluations to student achievement on standardized tests.

“I have one serious objection to it, which is it's about 10 years late,” said Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis.

He added that a test cannot determine which teachers are good and which aren't.

Legislators in 2011 started requiring teacher evaluation methods to include test data from students. Those in support said teachers must be held accountable in addition to schools receiving A-F grades. But those against the effort said it isn't fair to teachers because there is too much outside the classroom that affects student scores.

Outgoing House Speaker Brian Bosma was the first to push the change, saying he came around after seeing volatility on the state standardized test over the years. Changes in academic standards, testing vendors and the format of the test have led to huge drops in scores in recent years.

Local officials still have the option of considering test scores in teacher performance reviews, but it would no longer be required under the legislation, which now moves to the Senate. The hold-harmless bill also now moves to the Senate.

Indiana last year implemented a new computer adaptive standardized test – ILEARN – and student scores plummeted.

Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger, said the measure gives students, teachers and schools a two-year reprieve from any consequences while they get accustomed to the new test.

Schools with a consistent failing grade can face takeover from the state, and the bill essentially halts that process. A school's grade can improve but not worsen. 

The Senate passed its own hold-harmless bill Monday, but only one version is expected to make it to governor's desk in the next week or so.

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