The House education committee voted 8-4 today in favor of an amendment that removes language from Senate Bill 566 that would have allowed the state to use a nationally crafted assessment rather than the ISTEP+.
Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, authored the bill as a cost-saving measure after learning how much it will cost to write a new assessment that matches the state’s new academic standards– a price tag currently set at $134 million.
Kenley’s suggestion of using a national test surfaced back in December, when state superintendent Glenda Ritz presented her budget to the Senate Appropriations Committee. But as the bill passed through the Senate and entered the House, critics emerged saying reverting to a nationally crafted test would be returning Indiana to the education situation it wanted to abandon when it left Common Core.
Michael Cohen, president of the national education consulting group Achieve, worked with Indiana when it pulled out of Common Core and wrote new standards. He testified to the committee today in favor of the amendment, saying dumping ISTEP+ and trying to make a national test fit Indiana’s unique standards could put the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver in jeopardy again.
In response to legislators that suggested taking an off-the-shelf test like NWEA and tweaking the standards to match the test, Cohen said that kind of change is not a tweak, but “major surgery.”
“We’re going to give control of Indiana’s test to a testing company,” Cohen said.
Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who helped author the amendment, says the test most people suggested replacing ISTEP+ with is NWEA, a test school districts currently use throughout the year leading up to the ISTEP+. The problem with using that test, says Behning, is it’s a completely different type of assessment and wouldn’t comply with state law.
“Reality is they (NWEA) have never created an end of course or summative exam and so Indiana would be venturing into totally uncharted territory,” Behning said.
Behning says the other issue with using an off-the-shelf test is most national tests are Common Core aligned and wouldn’t be able to assess the state’s standards.
The bill now goes to a summer study committee.