Jenny Robinson reads with her second grade son, Louis. Robinson says she’s concerned about the amount of testing her children participate in, and wishes they could spend more time on creative learning. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)
If you’re a parent trying to prepare your child for the spring ISTEP+ test, you may be at a loss.
Maybe you got a letter from your child’s school this week, but it didn’t include the usual “make sure your child gets plenty of rest and eats a balanced breakfast.” Instead, it probably included a list of uncertainties about this year’s exam.
No one seems to know what students should expect and the testing window opens next week. How did Indiana find itself in this situation?
The solution: include pilot questions within the new test. Students would be subjected to a lot more questions than would actually count toward their scores – so many new questions that the length of the test actually doubled.
Release only a portion of test questions this coming summer, for teachers and students to use as practice problems for next year’s test,
Cut the number of questions each student answers on this year’s test, and
Cancel this year’s social studies portion for fifth and seventh graders (subtracting one hour from the test).
By law, those changes have to be approved by the General Assembly. In order to fast-track that process, two things happened in the House today:
The House unanimously passed a resolution pledging to shorten the test. This serves as a promise that lawmakers will make the recommended changes, allowing the Department of Education to move forward with releasing appropriate guidance to schools. It alleviates the stress of waiting for the legislature to go through the prescribed legal process to approve those changes.
As the first step in that legal process, the House Committee on Education amended and approved a bill coming out of the Senate (SB62, a measure originally intended to allow schools to contract out for physical education), tacking on the three state board provisions described above.
The House is expected to pass SB 62 during its session on Monday. Then, all that’s left is for the Senate to concur and the governor to sign off on the bill. House Speaker Brian Bosma says he thinks all this could happen as soon as Monday afternoon.
The testing window opens for schools Wednesday, Feb, 25.
People packed three levels of the Indiana Statehouse Monday afternoon for what was dubbed the “Rally for Ritz,” a public event to show support for state superintendent Glenda Ritz.
Superintendent Glenda Ritz appears at a rally on her behalf at the statehouse. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU)
The event, organized by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, featured speakers including Senate minority leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) and representatives from various education organizations, including two of the state’s largest teachers’ unions – the ISTA and AFT Indiana.
“Get the politicians out of the way, let you do what you know best, educate our children,” Sen. Lanane told attendees. “People decided who was going to be the superintendent of public instruction – let her do her job, right?”
Supporters of state superintendent Glenda Ritz pack the statehouse in Indianapolis Monday afternoon. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
Superintendent Ritz herself dropped in for an unannounced visit.
“Today’s rally is about students,” Ritz said to an audience of parents and teachers from various corners of the state. “I stand with you!”
Underscoring the event are months of tension between various state education policymakers – including Ritz, Governor Mike Pence, the Department of Education and State Board of Education. Icy relations came to a particularly controversial head last week, when lawmakers decided to shorten the spring ISTEP+ test. Schools may begin administering the first portion of that test next week.
Edward Roeber, a national testing consultant hired through Gov. Pence’s executive order, presents his plan to shorten this year’s ISTEP to the State Board of Education Friday. (Photo Credit: Claire McInerny/StateImpact Indiana)
Two national testing consultants – hired through an executive order Gov. Mike Pence issued this week – presented five recommendations to the State Board of Education Friday of ways to reduce the length of this year’s ISTEP+ test.
After reviewing this year’s ISTEP+, Roeber said the increased times came from one section.
“[English Language Arts] is the real culprit,” Roeber said.
Ritz and the board agreed to move forward with Roeber and Auty’s recommendations, which they say will shorten the test by three hours and five minutes:
1) Release only a small portion of the open-ended test items: When students take the ISTEP+ test, some of the questions are posted online after scores are posted to be used as practice or classroom preparation for the test. Those items have to go through an “operational test” (the actual, graded test students take) so the Department of Education knows they are effective. Since this year’s test is new, every question must be tested by students – whether it’s used in the part of the ISTEP+ that counts toward a student’s score or the “field test” (the part that’s goes back to the IDOE for data purposes). By not releasing every question after the fact, we get to save some of them for next year’s test. This is crucial, because questions for spring 2016 must be piloted this year. Continue Reading →
Lawmakers are in the process of hearing a number of new education proposals. (Photo Credit: Brian Turner/Flickr)
Countless lawmakers have dubbed 2015 the year of the “education session” in the General Assembly.
It’s an apt nickname – there’s a ton of school-related issues to keep track of right now. So much so that even experts get confused about which bill is which, and where it is in the process of potentially becoming law.
In his own response to concerns, Governor Mike Pence issued an executive order Monday hiring two outside consultants to recommendations for shrinking the test. Despite seemingly placing the blame for test issues on state board relations with Ritz and the IDOE during his press conference Monday, Pence said Wednesday that he had every confidence the groups could work together to fix the ISTEP+ before students sit for the first testing window Feb. 25.
A number of schools encountered technical troubles during the second round of statewide readiness tests, or “stress tests” around 10:20 a.m. Thursday – just like they did during the first round in January. This time, the majority of computers froze up about 20-25 minutes into the online testing period.
This is the second time tech troubles have plagued Indiana students during ISTEP+ stress this year. (Photo Credit: WSU Vancouver/Flickr)
Mitchell Community Schools technology director Sam Klawitter says this is at least a small improvement, but that he obviously still has concerns.
“It was not pretty, but not as catastrophic as last time,” Klawitter says. “Almost all of our students were able to limp along and were able to complete all 20 questions. We powered through and kept students in labs and classrooms beating on it until they were able to finish.”
Thursday’s test was originally supposed to take place a few weeks ago, but was rescheduled after the original failures.