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.
In an effort to address these concerns, Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order Monday hiring a national testing consultant to recommend ways to shorten the test to the IDOE and SBOE. But the testing window for the ISTEP+ begins Feb. 25, giving the consultant, the IDOE and CTB McGraw-Hill a tight deadline to make any changes to the test.
The SBOE meeting Friday will focus only on this issue, and the resolution put forward by the IDOE attempts to address the concerns of parents and educators in a different way than the governor’s attempt to shorten the test.
The resolution asks the board to vote on the following changes to the state’s testing procedures:
Request that the General Assembly allow the IDOE and SBOE to suspend A-F grades for the 2014-2015 school year (which are based partially on ISTEP+ grades),
Ask the General Assembly to pause interventions for failing schools “due to a sixth consecutive year of placement in the lowest category or designation of school performance resulting from the hold in school categories and designations for the 2014-2015 school year,”
Ask the General Assembly to remove social studies portions of the 2015 ISTEP+ for fifth and seventh graders,
Ask the General Assembly to approve the decision not to administer the IREAD-3 test this year, to reduce the amount of testing for third graders, and
Not incorporate ISTEP+ scores into teacher evaluations.
Brownsburg Community School received their testing materials for this year’s ISTEP+, but can’t administer practice tests without knowing how the final version of the test will change. (Photo Credit: Scott Smith/Brownsburg Community Schools)
Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order Monday requiring the Department of Education to work with a testing consultant to shorten this year’s ISTEP+ test, putting school districts across the state into a state of limbo.
The consultant, Edward Roeber, will receive up to $22,000 to analyze and make recommendations regarding this year’s ISTEP+ test by Feb. 20, as well as advise on the creation of the 2016 test.
With only ten school days left until the testing window opens, there isn’t much time for the State Board of Education and Department of Education to finalize changes and give schools enough time to familiarize students with the test.
Brownsburg Community Schools received their testing materials from CTB-McGraw Hill early, but Director of Assessments Scott Smith says the district isn’t going to do anything with them until they get further guidance from the IDOE.
Included in the materials are practice tests, which schools are allowed to use in an informal way in the weeks leading up to the test, to familiarize students with content and style. Smith says he will not give those out to students in Brownsburg, to avoid exposing them to material that might be removed from the final test in the next few weeks.
“The Governor specifically mentioned the social studies test as a portion that may be recommended for removal by the outside consultant,” Smith said. “If that’s going to happen we certainly don’t want to spend any time on the social studies practice test. It’s not really clear what other content might be recommended for removal, and whether or not there are specific practice sections related to those specific live sections.”
The deadline for Roeber’s recommendations is five days before the testing window opens Feb. 25, so a finalized version of the test likely won’t be available well before most schools administer the test.
Pence signed an executive order shortening the length of this year’s ISTEP+ test. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee/WTIU)
Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order Monday to hire a nationally-recognized assessment expert to advise the state on how to shorten the 2015 ISTEP+ test.
The announcement comes after outcry from educators and parents when the Department of Education released timetables for this year’s ISTEP+ last week, showing the amount of time students will sit taking a test had doubled from last year. The consultant, yet to be chosen, will review the new test and make suggestions to the governor’s office, the IDOE and State Board of Education on how to make it shorter.
“Once we receive these recommendations to shorten the ISTEP+ test, we’ll be calling on the State Board of Education and the Indiana Department of Education to work with our vendor to implement these changes immediately in time for this spring’s test,” Pence says.
This year’s ISTEP+ length comes as a side effect of pulling out of Common Core and writing new state standards. Since it’s a brand new test, the state’s vendor, CTB McGraw-Hill, and the IDOE are including a significantly higher number of questions to assess the validity of the test.
Pence said it was the State Board of Education’s fault that this pilot is included in the actual test, instead of delivering it this fall as a practice. He blames the board’s inability to work together for the delay in putting pilot questions forward.
Daniel Altman, a spokesperson for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, says Ritz is not in favor of the longer test but feels she had no choice but to move forward with this option.
“These are the requirements the federal government has put on us and these are the requirements that the House and the Senate have said that they want tested as well, so the Department has to comply with that,” Altman says.
The testing window for this year’s ISTEP+ begins Feb. 25, giving the consultant exactly two weeks and two days to come up with a plan to shorten the test.
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