By Zach Manges
Indiana students may be seeing some major changes to their ISTEP+ tests this year, though they may not be filling in as many bubbles with heavy dark marks as initially planned.
The 2015 ISTEP+ test, to be administered to over four hundred thousand students in grades three through eight, was originally expected to undergo changes that would’ve lengthened the exam by as much as seven hours, more than doubling its size from previous years.
The lengthened test in part resulted from the Department of Education’s lack of a pilot test that would’ve sampled the validity of questions on a smaller subset of students before issuing it to the entire state.
“Since the Department of Education didn’t do the pilot test, as it said it would, they are making the whole spring ISTEP+ a pilot. That means they will determine which questions will apply to the student’s score after they grade the results,” stated Marc Lotter, director of external relations for the Indiana State Board of Education. “When the State Board asked the DOE about this in September, they said it would only add a few questions. As you can see, it did a lot more than that.”
On Feb. 9, the DOE was taken to task by Gov. Mike Pence, who issued an executive order to cut the length of the exam back down to around six hours.
“Parents and teachers across Indiana are stunned and outraged at this news, and so am I,” Pence said during a press conference. “I am committed to seeing this test through and to bring common sense to shorten it for Hoosier families.”
In order to find ways to reduce test times, officials are in contact with nationally-recognized experts on assessments which, according to Pence’s statements, may include making the social studies and reading portions of the exam more concise. However, in spite of the executive order, final say on the length of the test still rests with state superintendent Glenda Ritz and the DOE.
Hamilton Southeastern schools continue to prepare for the exam. “HSE is actively preparing the students for the ISTEP testing environment. We will wait further instruction from the DOE and Gov. Pence,” said Bev Smith, HSE director of school and community relations.