Lawmakers Consider Cheaper Testing Program To Replace ISTEP

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February 5, 2015 —

INDIANAPOLIS – A proposal to make a wave of changes dealing with standardized testing, teacher salaries and teaching licenses in Indiana came before a state Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 566, authored by Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen, and Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, proposes a new avenue for school testing instead of the current ISTEP.

Kenley wants the state to move to an “off-the-rack test” that he said would better measure a student’s performance. He described it is as more than just a pass/fail assessment.

Kenley said if Indiana moved toward a national testing system, it also would allow the state to make better comparisons of performance between students in Indiana and other states.

Any new test must allow the state to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law, said John Barnes, a representative of the Indiana Department of Education.

Barnes said the test will need approval from the U.S. Department of Education, which currently requires the state to offer a test like ISTEP. The current ISTEP test is “summative” in that it tests students’ knowledge after they were supposed to learn certain concepts. The new test is more “formative” in nature, which educators currently use throughout the year to see if students a learning concepts.

However, Barnes said that there is still a chance for the Senate proposal to work. He said using the proposed testing system would be a matter of talking to the federal government, and the department hoped the state would rework the federal accountability law.

The bill also expands the ability for teachers to be paid based off of performance. Kenley said that these rewards are based off of “building performance,” and that any teacher can be a recipient of the bonus even if their overall school is not performing as well.

Mishler said that the performance bonus can be up to an additional 50 percent bonus off of the teacher’s base salary. He said that this addresses the issue of there being no “long term incentive to teach” and will help both the teachers and students.

SB 566 has an additional section on teachers and establishes a program that gives individuals with a major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and a minor in education a teaching license. Kenley said that this addition will help bring qualified individuals at each subject in to the field of education.

The bill was held until Feb. 11 for further discussion.

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