Panel considers end to linking test results, teacher pay

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Some members of a state panel charged with recommending a replacement for Indiana's unpopular ISTEP student exam want to stop tying test results to teacher pay.

The 23-member committee, which includes educators, state officials and academics, met Tuesday for its fourth monthly session. It faces a December deadline for suggestions to be considered during next year's legislative session.

Committee chairwoman Nicole Fama, an Indianapolis school principal, said the results of the new standardized test could still be used to evaluate schools, as required by federal law, even if those weren't factors in determining teacher pay.

Some panel members' concerns with how teachers would be evaluated based on a new exam have dominated the public discussions.

"We're taking adult stress and putting it on kids because the adults are stressed out," Fama said. "So if I can get the teacher accountability off, I feel we'll actually get more rich conversations about an actual test."

But such changes may not receive the needed approval from the Republican-dominated Legislature, which passed such measures in recent years.

House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning, an Indianapolis Republican, said teachers are held accountable for students showing improvement on ISTEP — not just whether they pass or fail the test — and that local schools districts decide how much the scores play into teacher evaluations.

Yet, Behning said, he is open to discussion: "I've been pretty upfront about the fact we need to look at what makes sense in terms of teacher evaluation metrics."

Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson, a member of the committee, said the state needs to decouple teacher pay from the test or it will be simply trading ISTEP for a similar exam.

Tying school grades, teacher pay and student progress measurements to ISTEP has led to the test dominating every day of the school year, said committee member Jean Russell, a teacher in the Southwest Allen County school district.

"Everything we are piling onto this one test is ruining it," she said.

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