Some state senators have proposed replacing Indiana's current ISTEP standardized school tests with non-state specific exams that would be less expensive.
A bill sponsored by three Republican senators calls for the State Board of Education to revise Indiana's K-12 academic standards and select a nationally recognized set of exams for testing students by July 2016.
Bill sponsor Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said Tuesday he believes the state would be better off using such an "off the shelf" set of tests and doesn't expect the school standards, which educators use to guide lessons plans, to have to be totally reworked.
"The standards would have to be rewritten to work with (the test) and I don't think they need to be completely rewritten," Kenley told the Evansville Courier & Press. "I think it will just be a modification."
The state Department of Education is now in the process of choosing a vendor to launch a new state standardized testing program for spring 2016 after legislators and Gov. Mike Pence removed Indiana from the national Common Core benchmarks last year.
Kenley, who is the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, has questioned the $20 million increase sought by state education officials to cover the cost of standardized testing.
The proposal would replace the state's current ISTEP exams with a new program called BEST — for "benchmarking excellence student testing" program — beginning in the 2016-17 school year. The bill, which hasn't yet been scheduled for a committee hearing, is also being sponsored by Republican Sens. Ryan Mishler, of Bremen, and Ed Charbonneau, of Valparaiso.
Kenley asked state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz during a budget hearing in December whether education officials weighed the cost effectiveness of using an already-built national test rather than one developed solely for Indiana.
"I keep thinking and wondering whether or not we're making it too hard, too expensive on ourselves as to whether we can't give a standardized test that's been built by someone else," Kenley said.
Yet, Danielle Shockey, deputy superintendent of public instruction, told a House committee last week that because the state has created its own academic standards, an "off-the-shelf" test wouldn't work.
"Those assessments don't align to our standards," Shockey said.