Still no clear replacement for ISTEP exam from panel, deadline nears

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The 23-person panel tasked with coming up with a replacement for the troubled ISTEP is still weighing its options. There is still no clear choice when it comes to the best exam for Hoosier children.

There was discussion at a Tuesday meeting about the problematic timeline for a new test. Experts made it clear to the panel that it is unlikely a new test will be ready for students by 2018.

"If you're going to design an assessment from scratch, you're going to assume two to three years before you've got a fully developed assessment," said Marianne Perie, a testing expert from the University of Kansas.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, (R)- District 14, said the general assembly may have to take action to alter the current law, which calls for a new test to be administered to students in less than two years.

"We are probably going to have to keep what we have now a little bit longer," Kruse said.

Rep. Robert Behning, (R ) – District 91, said he expects the ISTEP replacement to be on the table late in the session.

"That gives the department and state board very little time to go out and create a new test," Behning said. "We will probably have to have some sort of extension to have something in place as we develop the new assessment."

Panel weighs test options

The panel heard from several testing experts about the ways other states handled test replacements. The main formats that emerged were a fixed-form assessment that can be given on paper or computers, an adaptive computer test or buying an exam "off the shelf."

The idea of buying an exam means using a test like the SAT or PARCC as the statewide standardized assessment. Consultants said the downside to this format is that a purchased test will not be customized to Indiana's standards.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz unveiled her plan to replace the ISTEP. The Indiana On Track Assessment is an adaptive computer test that customizes questions based on a student's skill level. Ritz said her plan cuts testing time and costs.

"I really am wanting to align the content so that we are assessing more of a focus on reading," Ritz said. "It individualizes for children."

Ritz said she was denied a chance to present her plan to the panel, again.

An adaptive computer test would require Indiana to move to an all computer testing model. Right now, students take the ISTEP in both computer and paper forms.

"I’m constantly hearing questions or concerns that some administrators think paper pencil is better, some think that online," Behning said. "Let’s just move to one and say this is the way its going to work. Reality is there’s been a lot of frustration over technical problems."

Just last year, test scores were delayed due to concerns the computer portion of the ISTEP was more difficult than the paper version.

Testing consultants said computer testing provides faster results. But, students who are accustomed to paper and pencil testing could be affected by the change.

The panel's next and final meeting is scheduled for November 15. Members are expected to vote on a recommendation on November 29.

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