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Bill sparing schools from A-F grade drop sent to House floor

January 14, 2016

A bill sparing Indiana schools from a drop in A-F grades resulting from this year's sharp decline in student ISTEP scores now goes to the full House for consideration after the chamber's education committee approved it Thursday.

The measure passed without opposition and was previously passed by the full Senate. The bill is widely supported by lawmakers as well as both Gov. Mike Pence and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

Under the bill, schools and school districts cannot receive a lower A-F grade this year than what they received last year. If this year's grade is lower, the school or school district would receive last year's grade instead.

"In order to prevent this flawed test from having an unfair impact on schools, state leaders felt that the best action is to hold schools harmless for one year on their A-F grades and teacher pay related to ISTEP," Senate education committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said in a statement.

Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, voted for the bill during Thursday's committee meeting, but said she's concerned that applying the "hold harmless" measure for just one year might not be enough time for schools to adjust to the new, tougher ISTEP standards.

The standards were put in place after Republican majorities in the Legislature pulled Indiana from national Common Core standards in 2014.

But GOP lawmakers have also attempted to spread some of the blame onto Ritz and the State Board of Education, claiming a lack of oversight of the test's administration.

House education committee Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, has filed a bill that calls for re-scoring the ISTEP tests following recent discoveries of problems with the test's administration and scoring. The proposal also sets a deadline for future ISTEP scores to be reported to the State Board of Education as results of the spring 2015 tests were released nearly five months later than the 2014 results.

Both bills are part of a handful of proposals that lawmakers are putting forth to rectify the effect that the changed standards and resulting test scores had on schools and teacher compensation.

Another bill, approved by the House and pending in the Senate, would spare teachers from having merit pay withheld due to student scores.

Legislators aim to have this bill and the Senate bill on Gov. Pence's desk as early as next week.

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