Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Indiana Students Should Prepare For Two Rounds Of Standardized Testing

Laptops set up with pencils and scratch paper at the ready in a temporary testing lab at Tecumseh Junior High in Lafayette. School principal Brett Gruetzmacher says his school needs to set up temporary testing spaces to accomodate the number of test-takers they have this year.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Laptops are set up to administer the spring 2013 ISTEP+ test. For the next two years, students will take two rounds of tests to satisfy state and federal requirements.

Remember when we wrote Indiana students might have to take two standardized tests as a result of the ongoing Common Core boondoggle?

Yeah, that’s happening.

Students will take both the state’s current test, the ISTEP+, and a new test called the College- and Career-Readiness Transition Assessment, or CCRTA, in spring 2015.

“It is two tests,” says Indiana Department of Education Director of Assessment Michele Walker. “It’s two separate sets of standards that are being assessed there.”

Two tests are necessary because of the ongoing dispute over the Common Core. Eager to exit the national initiative to share academic standards, Indiana lawmakers have directed education officials to administer the ISTEP+ next year. But Indiana also promised the U.S. Department of Education it would give a test assessing college- and career-readiness at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

The Office of Management and Budget first raised the possibility of two tests last fall in a cost analysis it prepared for state lawmakers. At the time, state education officials told StateImpact they were hopeful a single test could satisfy both state and federal requirements and avoid double-testing kids.

But the State Board of Education has since agreed to an extended testing window in 2014-15 that gives schools times to administer both ISTEP+ and CCRTA.

It’s important to note the CCRTA won’t replace the ISTEP+ in Indiana, and it’s too soon to say what test students will take in 2015-16. State education officials first must approve new standards to replace the Common Core (that’s likely to happen next month), then take bids from companies to design a matching assessment.

What New, College- & Career-Ready Tests Look Like

Indiana will also pilot a college- and career-ready assessment this spring, called “CoreLink” — yes, as in Common Core. The state decided to go ahead with the transitional test even after lawmakers paused implementation of the standards.

“We do need to give students access to these item types and exposure to content that is more rigorous than our previous Indiana academic standards,” says Walker. “We also want to make sure educators have a chance to see what ‘technology-enhanced’ items look like.”

Testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill designed the CoreLink question bank. Though many of the questions will be similar in style and tone to the current online ISTEP+, others will look a little different:

Mathematics CoreLink sample question

A sample math problem from the new CoreLink test would require students 'drag and drop' the next numbers in a sequence.

Courtesy of CTB/McGraw-Hill

A sample math problem from the new CoreLink test would require students 'drag and drop' the next numbers in a sequence.

English language arts CoreLink sample question

In this example from the English language arts test, CoreLinks requires students to go back to the text and analyze highlighted examples.


In this example from the English language arts test, CoreLink requires students to go back to the text and analyze highlighted examples.

“I’m really excited about these new item types because it enables us to dig deeper into what students actually know and are able to do,” says Walker. “One of the items might ask students to choose three responses out of five that apply to a particular prompt or question. So the student is using a lot more critical thinking skills.”

All students who take the multiple choice portion of the ISTEP+ online (that’s the vast majority of Indiana schools) will also have to take CoreLink in May. CoreLink is only 20 questions, about half the length of ISTEP+.

But because it runs on a different platform, schools will have to reset computer labs and devices between ISTEP+ and CoreLink. That means students in most schools will sit for two tests this spring, too.


  • J

    Time to join the opt out movement.

  • Karynb9

    Will CoreLink count toward school accountability? Will individual student results be collected, or are all results lumped together by teacher/school/district? Will individual student results be released to parents? If so, when? Will results by school and district be made available to the public (like on the DOE website)? Is this only for ELA and Math, or does it include SS/Science as well? Are there options for schools without sufficient computer access to take CoreLink as a paper/pencil test?

    In the 2014-2015 school year, which of the two tests will count toward the A-F model? Both? One? Neither (not that lucky, I’m sure)? Is CCRTA only ELA and Math, or is it SS/Sci too? Will CCRTA include an “applied skills” section like ISTEP does now, or will it only be a multiple-choice assessment?

    On a related note, since I have yet to talk to a school corporation that even CARES about student results on SS/Science since it isn’t a part of school accountability, has there been any talk of getting rid of that portion of ANY future tests completely to save on costs and testing time?

    • Heather Elliott

      I can answer some of your questions, based on information from a presentation by Michele Walker to the Indiana Curriculum and Instruction Association on Friday March 14. CoreLink will not count toward school accountability. Indiividual results will not be collected or shared with parents. Each student taking CoreLink will only answer about 10 questions in English and about 10 in Math. Not all students will get the same 10 questions. Corelink is only ELA and Math.

      The IDOE does not yet know which of the two tests will count toward the A-F model, but it is a decision that will be made at the federal level.

      I am aware of school corporations that care about student results in SS and Science.

      I applaud you for asking questions, and I hope that you will continue to do that and to voice your opinions and the reasons for them!

      • Karynb9

        So Indiana teachers and students are spending time assessing students with a test (CoreLink) that will not provide them with information that they can use to remediate students and address any deficiencies that are identified. This is truly just taking a test for the sake of letting students practice taking a test.

        Let me guess — the cost of CoreLink was already wrapped into Indiana’s contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill before we dropped CCSS, so we’re already paying for it whether we use it or not.

        • Elle Moxley


          I think Heather got most of your questions, but I’ll try to help with some of the remainders:

          The DOE hasn’t decided yet if there will be an “applied skills” portion of CCRTA yet. (My guess is it will depend on which test the feds want Indiana to use for accountability.)

          Schools that don’t take tests online — less than 3 percent — won’t take CoreLink.

          It’s my understanding that Indiana did not have to do CoreLink this year, but it was done because even with new standards, there’s enough overlap with the Common Core that they wanted to see how students would perform on the new question types.

          Does that help at all?

        • Heather Elliott

          You are correct that students are practicing the “technology enhanced” common-core aligned items with Corelinks. Schools will get data on overall Corelinks performance. I don’t know the cost of Corelinks, or how it is being paid for.

    • Jorfer88

      Yea, science and social studies are ignored by those in charge due to the accountability focus on Math and English. Those subjects end up with most of the resources as a result. Students generally don’t care about the Biology ECA, because they don’t have to pass it to graduate, yet it is given anyways, and passing rates are placed in certain SIP plans so teachers are held accountable for it, despite there being no accountability for the students to do well on it, and it not effecting school letter grades (under the previous system, which is set to change with a still yet unknown system where a “framework exists” to replace it for this school year if I am not mistaken).

  • fedup

    Taking the fun out of teaching one test at a time.

  • Jorfer88

    So this talks about the timeline for ISTEP; what about ECAs? Will this test be piloted for them as well? The state seems to have rolled out a test called ACCUPLACER to see if high school students are college and career ready this school year, and seems to be requiring those not passing to be put in remediation courses.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »