FIXING THE 2015 ISTEP – Straight From The Senate

The Indiana General Assembly has long prioritized Hoosier students and educators. Over half of our state’s general fund is devoted to K-12 education, making Indiana third in the nation for the percent of our budget devoted to schools.

Like many states, Indiana uses standardized testing (known as ISTEP) to objectively measure student growth and performance.

While testing can be an effective tool of measurement for students and educators, the deeply troubled 2015 ISTEP saw a number of serious problems and caused parents and educators a significant amount of frustration.

The Indiana Senate, House of Representatives, Governor’s Office, Indiana Department of Education and State Board of Education worked together in recent months to find a solution to these issues.

This collaboration resulted in Senate Bill 200 and House Bill 1003, which were fast-tracked through the General Assembly and have already been signed into law by Gov. Pence.

Senate Bill 200 provides that each school’s 2014-2015 A-F grade cannot be lower than the school’s 2013-2014 grade. This prevents schools and school corporations from being harmed by the 2015 ISTEP test.

House Bill 1003 prevents ISTEP scores and school A-F grades from being used in teacher evaluations unless including them will improve a teachers’ evaluation rating. This change will stop lower ISTEP scores and A-F grades from hurting teachers’ eligibility for raises and bonuses, which are tied to their evaluation ratings.

SB 200 and HB 1003 provide fairness to students, teachers and schools that had to deal with the problematic 2015 ISTEP. These one-year adjustments to Indiana’s school accountability and teacher evaluation systems are necessary after the repeated technical errors and delays.

As we continue the conversation on student testing and assessment in the 2016 legislative session, I welcome an open debate on Indiana’s options for the future.

I believe testing should be one measure – but not the only measure – to assess school accountability. However, testing should be executed in the smartest, least time-consuming way possible.

Senate Republicans have championed efforts to simplify testing so educators and parents can get the benefits of testing in less time and with far less frustration. Restricted by the most egregious parts of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Indiana’s options were narrow in the past.

Now, using the new flexibility granted by Congress in the recently-passed Every Student Succeeds Act, I believe we can find a more efficient and reasonable method to measure Hoosier students’ growth and progress.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas concerning these and other topics. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.

David Long - IN Dist. 16 Senator

David is a former Republican member of the Indiana State Senate representing the 16th district which encompasses Waynedale. He served as the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate. David writes the "Straight From The Senate" column for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer