For the last few years, third through eighth graders in Indiana took the ISTEP+ exam in the spring to measure student performance. But when Indiana chose to not use Common Core standards and develop its own set of standards, the assessment portion of the equation remained unsolved.
Last week, state superintendent Glenda Ritz said after talking with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the state’s condition on its No Child Left Behind waiver, some sort of assessment that matches the new standards must be administered this spring.
To some, this was a surprise announcement. But looking at the issue as a whole, this has been a long time coming.
Why A New Test This Spring?
The announcement is part of a domino effect we’ve been seeing the last few months. One of the reasons the U.S. Department of Education placed a condition on the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver is because the state needed to prove its assessment matched its college and career ready standards. When the state switched standards, it also had to switch tests.
A spokesperson for the USDOE told StateImpact in a statement:
Based on the changes Indiana has made, we are asking for updated plans on how it will continue to meet these requirements. This is the same process that we have used with other states that have changed their plans for assessments, such as Georgia, Oklahoma, and Utah, and is not part of the reason for placing a condition on Indiana’s approved ESEA flexibility request.
The Indiana Department of Education’s original plan was to administer the old ISTEP+ this spring for reporting purposes but also pilot a new test based around the new standards. But Ritz seemed surprised this transition would not meet the federal government’s requirements.
“We were hoping that our plan of transition would be acceptable,” Ritz said. “They are not willing to be flexible on the time. They are not willing to do that. And so we are bound if we want a flexibility waiver to do the test in 14-15.”
The New Test
Ritz told the State Board of Education that the new test is still being developed but they do want it to be more rigorous by eliminating multiple choice questions and making students provide answers themselves.
The State Board of Education’s assessment committee sat through presentations yesterday from six testing companies (Amplify, College Board, CTB, DRC, Pearson and Questar) about developing the new test that will be administered in the 2015-2016 school year.
As for this next school year, if new questions need to be written, the state still has a contract with CTB to develop an assessment aligned to Indiana’s standards.
A New Test And How It Affects Accountability
Scores on this test are expected to drop dramatically, because whenever an assessment is changed, students do no perform as well.
This is why Ritz, the State Board and Indiana Department of Education wanted to phase in the test. Schools have spent the last four years or so transitioning to a Common Core test and now only have seven months now to try and prepare kids for this new test.
Because of the expectation of low scores, Ritz surprised a lot of members of the state board when she suggested Indiana consider freezing the consequences of school accountability grades.
As a refresher, right now a school’s ISTEP+ scores factor into teacher evaluations, which determine whether that teacher is eligible for a raise. It’s also a huge part of how the state calculates A-F grades, and as we know if a school gets consistently low grades, the state intervenes to help them improve.
So Ritz suggested to the board they consider freezing the consequences of these bad scores–not factoring it into teacher evaluations and having a school carry its score from the 2013-14 school year rather than recalculating one with low ISTEP+ scores. She said if the board chooses this options, they would still calculate A-F grades and publish the scores but would not punish schools for low scores.
As we reported yesterday, the state board’s legal team has until June 30 to see if this suggestion is even legal before they propose it to the USDOE.