UPDATE: State education panel leader wants to re-score ISTEP

The chairman of the Indiana House education committee says he wants to hire a contractor to re-score the 2015 ISTEP test, which he calls a "disaster."

Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said Wednesday that even if teachers and schools are not held accountable for dismal scores, the exam still forms a baseline to measure future progress.

The 2015 test was plagued by many problems, including scoring discrepancies and a months-long delay in the release of student scores. It also included stringent new standards that challenged many students.

Behning said a re-score is important to maintain credibility with parents and educators. He said lawmakers in the Senate are receptive to the idea, but he does not know how much it would cost.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, the Indiana Department of Education said slightly more than half of the students who took the ISTEP standardized test last year passed both the language arts and mathematics portions.

That's a sharp drop from the 74.7 percent of students who passed both sections in 2014. Officials say the drop was expected because of changes that made the test more difficult.

The department said the 2014 and 2015 scores aren't comparable because of "more rigorous college and career-ready standards."

The tests were adjusted after national Common Core standards were scrapped in favor of new, Indiana-written guidelines.

Lawmakers have been considering removing any negative influences the test scores might have on school districts and teacher pay.

The education committee on Wednesday approved a measure sparing teachers from having their performance pay reduced as a result of the scores.

The bill by Behning, approved on a 12-0 vote, is one of two measures dealing with the exam that lawmakers have fast-tracked since the session's start on Tuesday.

A Senate education committee on Wednesday is scheduled to take up a companion bill. The measure by Sen. Dennis Kruse would spare schools seeing their A-through-F grades drop from their 2014 scores as a result of low scores on the 2015 exams, which were plagued by problems.

The Auburn Republican's bill is supported by Gov. Mike Pence and Republican legislative leaders, as well as Democratic state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

The bill is one of two measures dealing with the ISTEP that have been fast-tracked by lawmakers eager to tamp down unease over scores, which dropped dramatically in 2015 as a result of stringent new standards.

The other measure would not lower teachers' performance pay as a result of low student scores. It is also scheduled for a Wednesday hearing.

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