Indiana lawmakers replace unpopular ISTEP+ with new statewide assessment system

At a time of general wariness across the country regarding the use of standardized tests in schools (54 percent of respondents to a 2015 national survey said they are “not helpful”), Indiana lawmakers have tried to deal with a particular problem in their state.
“It came to a point where the ISTEP had become like the Ford Edsel,” Indiana Rep. Bob Behning says.
ISTEP+ is Indiana’s statewide assessment system, and over the past few years, its unpopularity grew amid reports of long delays in getting results, software glitches, scoring errors, and concerns about the amount of classroom time being spent on the test.
Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill ensuring that ISTEP+ would indeed go the way of the Edsel. This year, under a bill signed into law in April (HB 1003), lawmakers set parameters for a new assessment system, which will be known as I-LEARN and take effect during the 2018-19 school year. 

Implementation of I-LEARN has been left to the state’s school superintendent and 11-member Board of Education, but Behning says HB 1003 reflects the priorities of legislators and an advisory panel they created in 2016.
“We needed to have an assessment that is shorter, with a single testing window,” says Behning, a sponsor of the legislation and member of the panel. “We wanted it to involve educators as much as possible, and to have something that is of high quality but less expensive.”
As required by federal law, Indiana will continue yearly assessments in math and reading for third- through eighth-graders, and students will take three statewide assessments in science during their K-12 careers. HB 1003 ends elementary-level assessments in social studies while requiring that students be assessed once on U.S. government or history.
Previously, students had taken the ISTEP at different times of the year; I-LEARN will only be administered statewide at the end of the school year. That single testing window, along with less overall testing time, should address at least some of the concerns raised by educators, parents and students, Behning says.
At the high school level, meanwhile, I-LEARN provides students with new pathways to graduation. Gone are the requirements that young people pass end-of-course exams in Algebra I and 10th-grade English. While these exams will remain in place, passing them will be only one way to meet graduation requirements.
Other options will include achieving a certain score on the SAT or ACT or passing international baccalaureate and advanced placement exams.
Also under the new law, school districts will have more flexibility on how to use results from statewide assessments to evaluate teachers. Legislators, meanwhile, may further study this contentious topic (linking test results to teacher performance) during the interim.
Lastly, the new law prioritizes what it calls “assessment literacy skills.” For example, it calls on the Indiana Department of Education to improve parents’ and teachers’ understanding of statewide assessments and how the results can be used to improve instruction.
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Stateline Midwest: May 20171.81 MB