ISTEP Review Panel debates on standardized testing, WWS prepares to adjust to change


By Anna Skinner

When March and April of 2017 roll around, students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10 will prepare to take the ISTEP testing which evaluates math, language arts and science in grades 4, 6 and 10 and social studies in grades 5 and 7.

However, this may be the last year of standardized testing as they know it.

Currently, the ISTEP Review Panel is debating on whether to continue with ISTEP testing or to implement a different standardized test, which would take place during the 2017-18 school year. That decision should be made by Dec. 1. Five of the panel’s 23 members were selected by Gov. Mike Pence. The panel also includes the Supt. of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and her four appointees, Commissioner of the Dept. of Workforce Development Steve Braun, Commissioner of Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, Chairperson of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee Sen. Dennis Kruse, Chairperson of the House Education Committee Rep. Robert Behning, a member of the State Board of Education, four President Pro Tempore appointments and four Speaker of the House appointments.

With No Child Left Behind transforming into Every Student Succeeds Act, there are new components to the ESSA that the state needs to follow. This has bled into the discussion on whether to change the formula of ISTEP – fixing technological issues to make the test online and allowing for no more multiple choice questions – or deciding on a different standardized test completely.

The four components of the ESSA are standards, assessment, accountability and school improvement. The state must follow these federal guidelines.

“There will be some test,” said Lynn Schemel, director of assessment and professional development at WWS. “Some people think with ISTEP (possibly) going away, we won’t have a test anymore, but we still have to meet those guidelines. We want to know how our students are doing on the standards, how well our students are doing, how well as a staff we are doing to meet the expectations of Indiana. (Standardized testing) helps us network with other districts to see how well they’re doing, and if they are doing better in a certain area, we can look at reasons why. It helps us identify the needs of the kids.”

The 2016-17 school year will be a transition year, according to WWS Supt. Dr. Sherry Grate, before all ESSA guidelines will be implemented in the 2017-18 year. ISTEP will still be the test for the coming year, but regarding the ISTEP Review Panel’s decision come Dec. 1, the 2017-18 school year standardized test could be an improved ISTEP, or what the panel decides to morph standardized testing into.

“The whole idea is just being able to continuously improve and grow, and if we don’t have a form of benchmark or measure along the way, we are shooting at a moving target or a target we don’t know is there,” Grate said. “So, this provides us with some additional information to help us with our instruction for our students. I’m optimistic that with the new components tied in with the new ESSA, we will have a well-rounded assessment system.”


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