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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.

CTB/McGraw-Hill

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.

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