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Lawmaker who called for ISTEP’s death now calling to extend its life

December 14, 2016

t’s been just nine months since Indiana lawmakers voted to get rid of the state’s hated ISTEP exam—and they’re already planning to keep it on life support.

Rep. Bob Behning, the Indianapolis Republican who championed the so-called “kill ISTEP” bill last spring, on Wednesday said the state might extend its contract with the company that made this year’s ISTEP by another one or two years.

That would mean ISTEP could remain largely unchanged beyond 2017, when the test was supposed to be given for the last time.

Extending ISTEP’s life might not be ideal given the complaints about the test’s history of scoring glitches and delays, but Behning said the state needs more time to create a viable ISTEP replacement.

“If you start looking at timelines, I don’t know how you get around it,” Behning said. “Expecting to have an new assessment in place by … May (2018) is to me, rushing it, and not in the best interests of students.”

Behning’s remarks came at an annual legislative conference, where lawmakers gathered to discuss issues on the legislature’s agenda for the session that begins in January.

The “Kill ISTEP” bill called for lawmakers to vote this session on a new test to measure Indiana students.

They had appointed a committee of lawmakers and educators who offered their final recommendations earlier this month. The recommendations largely called for tweaks to the test rather than a total overhaul, but the legislature is not bound by the recommendations.

Behning said he expects the legislature to proceed with voting this session on a new exam, but that exam won’t likely be administered until 2019 or 2020.

That follows the recommendation of test experts who urged the state to take its time to make sure the new test is done right.

Pearson, the British-based company that has the state’s current testing contract, is not responsible for the problematic 2015 test, but ISTEP critics who were hoping for a new exam will likely be disappointed to see the company’s contract continued.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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