The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 5:50 am

Panel OKs 2017 end for ISTEP+

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The increasingly fallible ISTEP+ now has an expiration date – July 1, 2017.

The House Education Committee on Tuesday voted 12-0 to approve a bill that would officially bring to an end the 29-year history of the state’s primary assessment for Indiana students.

"I’m sure that everybody believes that ISTEP+ is like an Edsel. It has probably well lived out its life expectancy," said House Education Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

House Bill 1395 – which now moves to the full House – creates a 24-person committee to establish Indiana’s new system for measuring K-12 performance and to make recommendations for the future.

Those recommendations will go to the Indiana State Board of Education, which will ultimately approve a new standardized test and performance system for the 2017-18 year.

The Indiana Department of Education has a current two-year contract with Pearson to finish out the ISTEP+ system.

"It’s a perfect opportunity for us to take a step to improve our accountability system," said Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson. "We can come up with something that’s more useful for teachers and principals and more easily understood by parents."

The state’s first standardized test, ISTEP was passed as part of an education reform program in 1987. The test was tweaked throughout the years, becoming ISTEP+ in 1995.

In recent years, the test has come under attack due to a host of problems. These include technical glitches that frustrated kids trying to take it online to a growing test length, open-ended items that make it more difficult to grade and questionable cut scores.

Behning said the recently passed federal Every Student Succeeds Act – which replaced the former No Child Left Behind Act – has given the state a great opportunity to reassess how it measures performance.

States must still test annually in grades 3-8 and once in high school in the main subject areas, but there is room for flexibility.

"This is kind of a new generation for us to move forward. Let’s kind of start over and look at making a positive step forward," Behning said. "The performance metrics would look a lot different."

Superintendents from across the state went to the State Board of Education Tuesday to express frustration about ISTEP+ – and hope for the future.

Randy Zimmerly, superintendent of Westview Schools in LaGrange County, urged the board to take the two-year period to ensure proper piloting and test development in order to make sure any new test is valid and reliable.

"We seek a system that holds us accountable, supports continuous improvement and is cost-effective," he said.

"A system that focuses us – the schools – on creating contributing members of communities, not just good test takers."

Share this article

Email story

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required