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An IPS School 79 student works on a test while her teacher looks on.

An IPS School 79 student works on a test while her teacher looks on.

Scott Elliott

Lawmakers send bill that would kill ISTEP to the Indiana Senate

A bill that could dramatically change standardized testing in Indiana cleared a major hurdle today to potentially become a reality in 2017.

The Indiana House voted 86-11 to pass House Bill 1395, which would give the Indiana State Board of Education the power to order a rescore of the 2015 ISTEP exam. The bill also creates a committee to study the future of Indiana’s testing program and A-F accountability system with an eye toward eliminating and replacing the ISTEP by July 2017.

“The goal would be (to rescore) a small sample size and only move forward if data showed that there were problems with the scoring,” said Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, the bill’s author. “It’s strictly a ‘may’ provision, and it’s up to the state board of education to make that call.”

More and more lawmakers have been pushing to get rid of ISTEP after last year’s test experienced a series of scoring and design problems. Behning said he thought the test itself was valid, but raised concerns about how it was administered by the Indiana Department of Education and test-writer CTB.

Behning said a rescore might be necessary because test administration problems have thrown into question whether the ISTEP results are accurate enough to use for the state’s new accountability system. If last year’s scores are inaccurate, he said, it could affect school grades this year.

But the bill, which now heads to the Senate, would have its biggest impact on future exams.

The committee of educators, lawmakers and policymakers outlined in the bill would study what future tests might look like and how they could be implemented. The 2017 deadline was set because that’s when the state’s current two-year testing contract with testmaker Pearson is scheduled to end. Also, 2017 is a budget year when legislators have more freedom to pass legislation with higher price tags.

Behning said he’s ready to work with senators as the bill moves forward. Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, has already proposed a bill to study ISTEP, but it doesn’t call for a rescore or a definite end to the test.

“I know both houses are looking at it,” Behning said “What bill survives in the end, who knows?”

The Indiana General Assembly advanced four other education bills today:

  • Workplace Spanish. House Bill 1209, authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, would allow schools to recognize students who have passed certain Spanish language classes with a special designation on their high school transcripts. The bill passed the House 94-1.
  • Various education issues. Senate Bill 93, authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has many provisions, including one that would change the definition of “secondary school” to include elementary grades so teachers could participate in a federal loan forgiveness program for “highly qualified teachers in high needs areas.” The bill would also require than any contract the state makes with a company to create ISTEP would require the return of scores to the State Board of Education no later than July 1 after the test has been given. Additionally, it would make it easier for teachers from outside Indiana to become licensed in the state and send a number of issues to summer study committees. The bill passed the Senate 49-0.
  • Ethnic history. Senate Bill 268, by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, would require high schools to teach students the history of different racial and ethnic groups in U.S. History courses. A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but was defeated in the House. The bill passed the Senate 41-9.
  • Consolidation. Senate Bill 307, authored by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, would allow school districts within the same county to merge administrative services to cut costs, but keep the “historical legacy” of the individual districts. The bill passed the Senate 48-2.