Indiana officials consider sparing schools from penalties

Indiana officials are considering whether schools should be spared for a second year from penalties based on poor student scores on the state's ISTEP standardized test.

The percentage of students with passing scores on the 2016 ISTEP dipped statewide, which can hurt the A-F ratings of their schools and affect teacher evaluations, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The state had relief from federal accountability requirements last year that allowed schools to keep teacher pay and A-F grades from dropping while students got used to the test. The U.S. Department of Education hasn't given similar protections this year.

Incoming Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick and top lawmakers said they're studying the issue. McCormick has previously said she supports not counting last spring's ISTEP scores against schools so teachers, schools and districts aren't held accountable unfairly.

At November's Indiana State Board of Education meeting a group of superintendents agreed with McCormick and said their schools dealt with computer glitches and didn't have sufficient time to adjust to the more rigorous academic standards the exam measures.

Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said students have been affected by the implementation of new assessments, standards and accountability calculations over the past few years.

"I think it's time for us to step back," Meredith said, "and look at the test and look at the standards, and figure out where they're not lining up."

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said he doesn't believe the ISTEP is helpful to his district. He said he doesn't believe the test accurately measures academic progress.

About 52 percent of students passed the English and math sections of ISTEP — Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress — in 2016, down from 53.5 percent who passed both in 2015, according to figures released by the Indiana Department of Education.

The Republican-dominated Legislature voted this year to mandate that ISTEP be replaced for the 2017-18 school year, but lawmakers have said that deadline will likely be pushed back because the new exams won't be ready in time.

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