Indiana Struggles to Replace ISTEP

Photo credit: Steve Baker (CC-By-ND 2.0)
Photo credit: Steve Baker (CC-By-ND 2.0)

Chalkbeat reports that Indiana is struggling to replace the current ISTEP assessment by the December 1st deadline imposed by state law.

…some members of a key testing advisory panel are now admitting that it’s increasingly likely the state might have to keep its unpopular ISTEP a bit longer.

Another option is to bring back parts of the controversial PARCC exam, a national test that was rejected by state lawmakers in 2013 because it’s tied to the politically unpopular Common Core State Standards.

Both options would violate current state law and create a political headache for lawmakers who vowed to swiftly replace the much-maligned ISTEP test with something better. But at a meeting Tuesday of the state’s ISTEP replacement panel, lawmakers and panel members acknowledged that starting a new test in the spring of 2018 might not be possible.

The “repeal ISTEP” bill that was signed by Gov. Mike Pence in May lays out an ambitious timeline with the ISTEP advisory panel making recommendations by Dec. 1 so that the legislature can formally enact the new test next spring.

But after months of indecision, members of the panel now say the ISTEP may be sticking around a little longer than expected.

Achieve, Inc makes the case Indiana to resurrect PARCC:

But the political situation has changed slightly since Indiana pulled out of the consortium of states that pooled their resources to create the PARCC exam, said Michael Cohen, president of the nonprofit Achieve that helps states work on academic standards and tests. Indiana originally pivoted so sharply from PARCC because of concerns that the Common Core represented a federal intrusion into state schools.

Today, however, “there’s no federal funds involved,” Cohen said. “It’s gone.”

It’s hard to say whether PARCC would be politically palatable in Indiana given the strong backlash it received in 2013. On one hand, Cohen today said it was a reliable, well-made test that was cheaper than Indiana’s current ISTEP contract with British-based Pearson. On the other hand, the politics might just be too “daunting,” said Indiana Commissioner for Education Teresa Lubbers, even if the test itself makes the most sense.

Just because there are no more federal funds attached from PARCC doesn’t make it a palatable option. For starters it would be just another slap in the face of Indiana parents and activists who worked so hard to see Common Core repealed to only then be disappointed when the standards were rebranded. Then PARCC has bled out membership and has been plagued with problems.

I have to ask why in the world has this task force gone months without a decision? What have they been doing?

Whenever they approve a new assessment they’ll then have to go to the U.S. Department of Education and ask “mother, may I?” under the guise of “state flexibility” under the Every Student Succeeds Act.