The committee created by lawmakers to rewrite Indiana’s standardized assessment, the ISTEP, met for the first time Tuesday.
No decisions were made, yet it became clear to the educators, policymakers and lawmakers gathered that a vast amount of work lies ahead before their deadline just six months away.
One major decision is whether a single summative test or multiple interim assessments should be used to measure how much a student knows and learned from the previous year.
University of Kansas testing expert Marianne Perie told the panel before they even decide that, they need to agree on the purpose of the exam. Is it to identity achievement gaps and help students? Or provide instructional feedback to teachers and parents? Will lawmakers use it to compare schools to make policies? Could teachers be evaluated by a student’s score?
“What is the number one goal this assessment has to have?,” she said. “If this taskforce doesn’t agree on that. It won’t agree on anything else.”
Legislation passed this year requires the 23-member committee to report its recommendations for a new assessment by Dec. 1. The report is supposed to guide lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session on approving a new assessment - one that could be built from scratch just for Indiana or be a so-called “off-the-shelf” model used by other states.
Testing company Pearson is under contract with Indiana to give the current ISTEP in 2017. The new assessment, as approved by the committee, is go into effect in spring 2018.
But the looming deadline is already causing state Rep. Bob Behning to suggest tweaking the law that repealed ISTEP to allow its use for one or two more years.
“There’s probably a pretty good chance that we will extend the contract with Pearson for another year or two, until we get what we want, to do it right,” he said after leaving the committee meeting.
Superintendent Glenda Ritz said the timeline to design the assessments will become more clear after the committee decides on key factors — such as the purpose and then the type.
“There will be a conversation of what assessments we do want, and can we achieve the (third grade) I-READ information in the new system,” she said.
Whether social students is part of the ISTEP could also be discussed, Ritz said, since an assessment of subject is no longer required by federal policy.
“The cool thing about this whole operation is we really get to design the whole system,” she said.
Tuesday’s meeting was mostly a summary of the types of testing, the current state of Indiana’s assessments, including ISTEP and the third grade reading test know as I-READ, and a review of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, that replaced No Child Left Behind.
The panel’s recommendation on the new assessment system is due Dec. 1. The next meeting date has not been released.