State Board of Education sets pass/fail line for ISTEP test, low scores could impact teachers

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INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 28, 2015) – The Indiana State Board of Education set the pass/fail line Wednesday for the state’s ISTEP test, after a delay because of discrepancies between the online and paper test.

“If some adjustments aren’t made – many, many, many teachers will be penalized for the low test scores,” Steve Baker said, principal at Bluffton High School.

The data predicts a drop in scores – 24 percent in math and 16% in English. Officials credit more rigorous standards for the decline.

“Parents should know this has happened throughout the country,” David Freitas said, a board member. “That when we have a new assessment system and a new test, that scores will be lower.”

Officials are urging parents and students to take the results with a grain of salt, although it’s still unknown exactly which students passed or failed.

“That’s the tough part because you can’t say don’t pay attention to the numbers,” Baker said. “Because you have to pay attention to them. We get grades from those numbers. We get salary increases from those numbers.”

The scores have become a big concern for Indiana teachers since standardized test results are so closely tied to teacher performance.

“Teachers have always been caught in the middle when there’s been a transition to new standards,” Baker said.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued a letter Tuesday, to the state superintendent and Board of Education. Pence said he’s working with lawmakers to ensure the low ISTEP scores don’t negatively impact teacher evaluations and bonuses.

"We'll preserve accountability but we'll be working with members of the General Assembly to see if we can - for a one year period of time - adjust that A-F program so it fairly and accurately reflects the performance  that our kids and our teachers are providing," Pence said Wednesday during a stop in Fort Wayne.

State Board of Education members are backing the idea.

“So now that we’re starting to see some of these actual hard numbers, I’m pleased he’s working with everyone to make the effort to give us a pause,” Cari Whicker said, a board member.

In his letter, Pence said he wants input from the board and state superintendent as the legislation is crafted.

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