Parents, educators upset about ISTEP time requirements

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INDIANAPOLIS (February 2, 2015) – Once again, parents and educators are concerned about the ISTEP exam. The test is more rigorous this year, and students will spend two to three times as much time taking it.

Third graders will spend nearly nine and a half hours taking the exam and on mandatory practice testing. For fourth and fifth graders, the time commitment is even greater. This year, Part 1 of the test will take place from March 2-11.

This was the schedule sent out by the Indiana Department of Education:

ISTEP chart 1

ISTEP chart 2

ISTEP chart 3

The Indiana Department of Education also sent school districts a schedule of practice test times.

ISTEP chart 4

A number of educators and parents are concerned students will experience test fatigue or won’t have the stamina to do their best work throughout the entire testing process. Pittsboro Elementary School Principal Jeremy Brooks says the scheduling came as a big surprise.

“We have prepared in our building for the rigors of the test since last summer when we heard the news – getting ready for different types of problems and questions and writing responses. We were not anticipating the length of the test at this point.”

The test is spread out over several days, but there is a long line-up of standardized tests students must take each year.

“With our third graders, we’re concerned about them not taking the test before,” says Brooks. “They’ve never taken an ISTEP test. This is their first time taking this test, which will be an extended test. Then a week later they’ll also take the IREAD3 test, which is a very rigorous test as well.”

He says teachers at Pittsboro are stressed about the time they’ll need to dedicate to the test and practice testing.

“It does take away from instruction. It’s pretty much a week and a half or two weeks where you can’t have school the way you normally do, but it is an important piece,” says Brooks, adding that he thinks testing is important, but is being too heavily relied upon.

Daniel Altman with the Department of Education says it’s about giving kids the time they need to be successful on the ISTEP.

“The United States Department of Education is requiring that the ISTEP be aligned to Indiana’s new Academic Standards. Because the standards are more rigorous, more time has been allotted for students to ensure they have the time they need for the assessment,” Altman says.

Brooks says students will still end up using every moment they are allotted.

“Some of the Department of Education memos actually say, there’s longer time because we want to make sure they have enough time to take the test. However, I know our students, being good test takers and good students, will use every minute of that time.”

The changes are a big concern for parents, educators and students involved with special education programs.

“One of the accommodations is extended time, which is time and a half. So when you have a very lengthy test and add half the time on to that, that’s really going to be very stressful for those students because they struggle in the classroom anyway.”

Rachel Eastman has a third grader and a fifth grader in the North West Hendricks County School Corporation. Her fifth grade son struggles with, among other things, dyslexia.

“If this ISTEP test is going to take 10 hours to complete, is he going to need 20 hours of testing?” questions Eastman. “I’m really nervous about it, because it’s very frustrating for an 11 year old to sit there and test, test, test all day long when he already has learning comprehension issues anyway.”

Eastman says all students are being tested too much. She says it takes away from a teacher’s ability to be creative and a student’s ability to think outside the box.

“I feel like we are really hindering our creative little thinkers and we’re burning them out and we’re not giving teachers the opportunity to help them flourish and grow the way they really could. It’s just being stifled,” says Eastman. “It is a grave concern that when we just keep upping the ante every year and testing becomes more and more and longer and longer, that they’re not going to want to go to school. They’re going to lose that love for learning.”

This is a computer lab schedule from one area district. Notice there are only six days for the rest of the school year without some sort of testing scheduled.

TEST (2)

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