Education

Lawmakers Want Different School Testing Methods

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January 23, 2015 — TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — A group of Republican state senators are pushing a legislative proposal they hope will work to reduce the number of standardized tests students are required to take.

Senate Bill 566, authored by Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen, and Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, would require state education leaders to revise Indiana’s academic standards and adopt a new testing program based off nationally-recognized exams.

“We’re listening to teachers and parents that talk to us about what are things that they think could produce as rigorous an education as we do today in a more simple fashion,” Kenley said.

The bill proposes to replace ISTEP with a new program known as “BEST,” which stands for “benchmarking excellence student testing” program. Supporters of the measure say a national, “off-the-shelf” test may be more cost effective for the state than building a standardized exams specific for Indiana.

“To me, a standardized test has some value in that it makes it easier to compare with other places around the country,” Kenley said, ”There are some standardized tests the schools are already using in addition to ISTEP, so apparently they don’t think that ISTEP itself is good enough to be the tool to use.”

But testing is just one aspect of the proposal. The legislation also deals with other education-related items, such as teacher performance bonuses. It would also propose allowing students coming out of college with a STEM degree and a minor in education to get a teaching license.

“That’s something new that we need to drive more young people into the profession, particularly with expertise in the STEM areas,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R- Fort Wayne.

Previously, the state had adopted Common Core State Standards, a set of standards that are being used by more than 40 states, and Indiana was a part of a national organization that was creating a test to measure student knowledge of those standards.

But when the General Assembly moved away from Common Core, the state also dropped out of the group. Now the Indiana State Board of Education is searching for a vendor to create a test that matches the states locally written standards.

However, some lawmakers are concerned of the costs of those tests.

“We’re just trying to make it a better testing program. We think it’ll be better,” Kenley said. “If it costs less that’s good. But the goal is to have the best testing system. That’s why we named it the BEST.”

The legislation was sent to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development. Long said that there will be a hearing on the bill in the coming days.

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