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Readers were eager to learn about the new ISTEP.

Scott Elliott

No clarity yet on competing visions for Indiana state testing

In a high stakes game of chicken, the Indiana House and Senate passed two bills with competing visions for Indiana’s future state tests with just a week left to find common ground before the session ends.

On one side is Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, with his proposal to stop giving ISTEP in favor of an “off-the-shelf” test he argues would save the state millions. That idea now lives in House Bill 1009, which passed the Senate 47-3 today.

But over in the House, Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, has argued Kenley’s idea needs more review and that ISTEP should remain at least for the next two years. As chairman of the House Education Committee, Behning helped rewrite Senate Bill 566 to create a summer study committee to explore replacing ISTEP while keeping the state test in place. That bill passed the House 72-25 today.

Meanwhile, the proposed state budget for the next two years, which passed the Senate 42-8 today as House Bill 1001, would remove some elements of the state’s testing program but largely keep ISTEP intact.

Kenley said he pushed his fellow senators to keep his idea to adopt a test used by other states, like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or a test created by the Northwest Evaluation Association that educators already use to prepare kids for ISTEP, as a way to move toward a compromise.

“I was afraid that if I didn’t do something like that in the budget bill that we would just keep talking past each other,” he said.

The budget proposal calls for spending $71.6 million over two years on testing and remediation, including:

  • ISTEP math and English tests in grades 3 to 8; social studies in grades 6 and 7; and science in grades 4, 6 and 10.
  • The third grade reading exam, IREAD.
  • High school end-of-course exams in English and Algebra at 10th grade. A new 10th grad ISTEP test also would be added.
  • Practice tests schools use to prepare for ISTEP and find where students need more help on certain skills.

It’s slightly different from what the Indiana Department of Education proposed. The department also wanted English and math ISTEP tests for 9th grade and a phase-out of the end-of-course exams. Last month, the state chose the British-based testing company Pearson to create future ISTEP tests, replacing California-based CTB/McGraw-Hill.

Lawmakers have one week to broker compromises to resolve the differences between the bills passed in the House and Senate before an April 29 deadline.