UPDATE: Pence signs bill trimming ISTEP times

Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law Monday to reduce the time students will spend taking the ISTEP test that begins this week – just hours after the House and Senate approved the legislation unanimously.

“Hoosier students, teachers and parents can breathe easier now that this year’s ISTEP test will be significantly shortened,” Pence said in a statement.

Senate Bill 62 makes the social studies portion of the test optional and changes the way some questions are piloted for next year’s exam.

Combined, that will shave at least three hours off the test for all grades plus an additional hour in 5th and 7th grades, which take the social studies test. Republican lawmakers said Monday the changes could save even more time.

“We are happy to see it passed,” said Daniel Altman, a spokesman for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Lawmakers fast-tracked the bill to get it approved before the ISTEP exam gets underway in hundreds of schools across Indiana. The Department of Education has already advised schools to make the changes in anticipation of the bill becoming law.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, said the legislation is an example of the way state leaders “do come together among common ideas.”

State leaders – including lawmakers, Ritz and Pence – have been scrambling to shorten a test that has had been projected to double in length this year to as long as 12-1/2 hours for some students.

“Our success in shortening the ISTEP test should reassure Hoosiers that we can accomplish much for our kids, teachers, and schools when we work together,” Pence said.

The governor and Republican legislative leaders initially blamed Ritz, a Democrat, for the problems. But she insisted the longer test was the result of legislative mandates and federal rules as well as the state’s transition to curriculum standards that require a new test in 2016.


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