Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Feds Require New Standardized Test To Keep NCLB Waiver

Ritz announced a new, more rigorous assessment will debut this spring, surprising many State Board of Education members.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Ritz announced a new, more rigorous assessment will debut this spring, surprising many State Board of Education members.

Indiana students must take an assessment that tests their knowledge of the new state standards next spring if the state wants to keep its No Child Left Behind waiver, state superintendent Glenda Ritz told the State Board of Education on Wednesday.

Ritz said after phone calls with the U.S. Department of Education regarding getting the state in compliance to extend its No Child Left Behind waiver, U.S. Department of Education officials said a spring test in 2015 must be fully operational in order for the state to keep the waiver.

Last month the state received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education putting a condition on its waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements. The waiver allows the state to have flexibility with millions of dollars of federal money.

The news of the testing requirement came as a surprise to many board members. The state is transitioning away from Common Core standards to new Indiana State Standards, and the previous plan was to give the current ISTEP test along with another test that would be specific to the new standards, to try it out as a pilot. 

Ritz said the new assessment will be much more rigorous than the current ISTEP, getting rid of multiple choice questions and instead having students show their answers.

Because the new assessment will be the sole way of testing students next year, Ritz says she doesn’t expect the scores to be good.

“It is most likely that when you have a new assessment and keep in mind, we are going to go to a very rigorous assessment,” Ritz said. “It is expected that we will see a lessening in student performance so that does have an impact on teacher evaluation as well as accountability.”

This expected drop in scores led Ritz to also recommend the board suspend the consequences of school accountability grades (A-F scores) and teacher evaluations, which the test scores factor into.

She said the state would still provide the scores to parents and students, but schools that received F’s, for example, would potentially be at no higher risk for a state takeover, and teachers’ salaries would not be affected by low pass rates.

Board member Brad Oliver questioned the legality of not counting A-F scores, particularly toward whether a school gets put in a Focus area or into state takeover. That’s a question that is unanswered right now, since assessment scores are legally required to be a part of both teacher evaluations and school accountability scores.

“We haven’t made any decisions regarding that,” Ritz said. “We are simply starting the conversation, we have to have lots of conversations obviously.”

But those conversations need to happen before June 30 when the state will submit its plan for complying with the waiver to the U.S. Department of Education.

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