— Indiana teachers are heading back to classrooms starting this week and
face the daunting task of preparing students for a standardized test
that's been retooled three times since 2009.
Some teachers and
district administrators worry the exam that's still being revamped by a
state contractor could negatively impact them and their students, since
performance on the high-stakes test helps determine whether teachers get a
raise and how schools are graded on an A-to-F rating system.
The changes come
after nearly two years of ideological and political battles over education
policy between Democratic state schools chief Glenda Ritz and Republican
Gov. Mike Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation. It could be
September or later before students see example questions and the new
Thomas Hakim, an
eighth-grade teacher and the mathematics department head at Washington
Township Schools in Indianapolis, said teachers are frustrated about the
uncertainty that comes with the revised test.
teacher and every superintendent wants to know is how we are going to
measure our students successfully. We start school in a week and we still
don't know," he told The Indianapolis Star.
The new test will
assess students' mastery of Indiana's newly adopted math and English
benchmarks — which changed after the state dropped the national Common
Core curriculum — and also will be more interactive, possibly requiring
students to highlight passages of text on a computer to show how they
reach certain conclusions.
The exam will be
administered early next year to more than 400,000 students in third to
eighth grades across Indiana. The test is being revised by CTB/McGraw-Hill,
the company that created and implemented the ISTEP during the past four
years under a $95 million contract that was extended June 30.
anticipated a revamped ISTEP tied to teacher evaluations in the 2015-16
school year. But last month, Ritz said federal education officials told
her Indiana must impose a new standardized test in the spring of 2015.
Without that new test, Indiana would likely lose its waiver from the No
Child Left Behind law that determines the use of some federal funding and
sets benchmarks for student pass rates.
executive director of Indiana Association of Public School
Superintendents, said it's unrealistic for adjustments not to be made to
teacher and school ratings to account for the expected drop in student
scores on the new test. He said that otherwise, educators could be
"I have never
heard a teacher, principal or superintendent talk about not wanting to be
held accountable," Coopman said. "This is a huge implementation of new
standards and a new assessment and we are doing it without a phase-in."
superintendent Danielle Shockey said educators will soon have more details
about the test. So-called exam "blueprints" are already available online;
an example of the test's interactive portion should be posted online in
The new type of
testing will replace rote memorization and require students to grapple
with complicated texts, prove answers with evidence and develop deep
critical thinking skills.
the co-director of the education policy center at Michigan State
University, said Indiana schools should not see too much turmoil as they
shift to the new standards. Indiana's previous academic standards —
English was adopted in 2006 and math in 2000 — have been ranked as some of
the county's best by the conservative Fordham Institute.