Indiana Trying to Balance Accountability with New Test Scores


Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Republican legislative leaders agree with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz concerning the best way to handle putting an end to school A-F accountability grades and teacher performance pay from decreasing due to a drop in ISTEP scores.

The announcement came from GOP leaders that the General Assembly would move to remove all negative consequences resulting from 2015 ISTEP scores having to do with A-F grades and teacher pay. The move has long been supported by Ritz and the state's largest teachers union.

Support to reduce the role of ISTEP scores increased from the Republican side after Pence suggested that he did not want a decrease in scores to hurt educators or schools in the state. Support from the Governor was made public in October just after the state learned that double-digit drops in both math and English language arts scores on the 2015 exams were to be expected. A-F grades were also expected to see a large drop. Preliminary data suggested an increase in the number of schools that would be labeled as failing, reports Chelsea Schneider for The IndyStar.

"Everyone involved in addressing the ISTEP issue did our due diligence to ensure we came to the right conclusion. The plans being introduced in the Senate and House are the best way to put the 2015 ISTEP challenges behind us," said Senate President Pro Tem David Long in a statement.

A separate proposal by Senator Dennis Kruse would not penalize schools on their A-F grades due to a drop in 2015 ISTEP scores. Senate Bill 200 would not affect A-F accountability grades no matter how much their ISTEP scores fell. The newest round of A-F grades are expected to be released later this month.

Ritz offered her support of the bill, calling it "common sense legislation" offering schools the time they need to adjust to the new standards while limiting the amount of economic harm to fall on local schools and communities.

According to Indiana education leaders, a decrease in ISTEP scores is the result of new standards implemented by the state in 2014, as well as the introduction of a new test based off of those standards.

Last year also found the administration of the ISTEP exams, taken by students in grades 3-8, dealing with glitches and computer malfunctions. An Indianapolis Star investigation into the issues discovered that they could have been the cause of incorrect scores being given to students throughout the state.

At that time, Ritz had pushed for a pause in the A-F grading system in a letter to then-US Education Secretary Arne Duncan. However, Pence responded in a newspaper column saying that such a thing would never happen while he was in office.

The Senate Education and Career Development Committee is expected to hear the proposal later this week.

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