ISTA Seeks Delay On Evaluations, School Grades Based On New ISTEP Exam
August 28, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – The state’s largest teachers union wants to push pause on plans to tie next year’s school grades and teacher salaries to a new standardized test that remains under development.
The Indiana State Teachers Association is calling on Gov. Mike Pence to “take the lead” in implementing a temporary moratorium on accountability measures that are tied to the new ISTEP test.
In a letter dated Tuesday, the group – which represents 45,000 teachers, retirees and other school staff – cites a decision by the Obama administration to give states more flexibility in “tying high stakes testing results to teacher evaluations and student promotions.”
A spokeswoman for Pence did not return a message seeking comment late Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier this year, the State Board of Education approved new state curriculum standards. And in June, the U.S. Department of Education told state officials that the state’s 2015 standardized test must be based on those standards or Indiana could lose a waiver that releases schools from some federal rules. The test is now under development.
In the letter, ISTA President Teresa Meredith said the test will be “radically new” and likely lead to lower scores. That’s important because ISTEP results are used in part to grade schools, decide which students advance and rate teachers.
“Labeling a school A-F and evaluating teachers and evaluating teachers based on the initial year’s baseline score would be unfair, not to mention what the test results will do to the students who don’t score well,” the letter said.
Already, state Superintendent Glenda Ritz has proposed freezing the state’s A-F grading system so that schools aren’t punished if the quick transition to a new test causes poor performance. However, board members were skeptical about freezing the new system, saying that would likely hurt the state’s chances of extending its waiver of No Child Left Behind rules.
However, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last week that states “will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation” as they transition to new standards and tests. That could push the accountability measures back to the 2015-2016 school year.
“Change is hard, and changes of significance rarely work exactly as planned,” Duncan said. “But in partnership, making course alterations as necessary, we will get there.”