Lawmakers take quick action after ISTEP+ results released, numbers show decline in passing rate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 6, 2016) – The Indiana Department of Education released results from the 2014-2015 ISTEP+ standardized test Wednesday morning, and numbers show a significant drop in the number of students who passed both sections of the test.

According to the numbers, 53.5 percent students passed both the English/Language Arts and Mathematics sections, a sharp decline from the previous year, when 74.7 percent of students passed. The 2014-2015 ISTEP+ was the first to use more rigorous assessments.

Education officials expected the percentage of passing students to drop due to the more challenging standards, and delays in getting test results left parents, educators and Indiana lawmakers frustrated.

“We raised standards in Indiana,” Gov. Mike Pence said. “So it was a tougher test and was fully anticipated there would be some decline.”

Statewide, 67.3 percent of students passed the English/Language Arts section while 61 percent passed Mathematics. In the previous year’s test, about 80 percent of students passed English/Language Arts. A comparable percentage of students passed Mathematics.

“I’m glad they’re finally being released,” State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said, chair of the House Education Committee. “It’s way too late.”

Hours after the results were made public, lawmakers worked quickly to ensure the low scores wouldn’t impact schools and teachers, fast-tracking two bills in the House and Senate education committees.

As part of the legislation, schools wouldn’t see a drop in their A-through-F grades from 2014 and teacher performance and bonuses wouldn’t be tired to the results.  Pence hopes to have the legislation on his desk by the end of the month.

Also Wednesday, Behning said he wants a third party to re-score last year’s test, concerned scoring errors still exist.

“We are very concerned to make sure there is validity going forward,” he said in an interview.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz wouldn’t comment on the idea, but did call for a new test, saying a one-size-fits all, pass/fail approach isn’t working.

“I can tell you we’ve done the due-diligence that needs to be done,” she said. “Beyond that I don’t know what to say.”

Ritz added the State Board of Education is currently performing a validity study on the 2015 results.

“I never mind scrutiny of the test,” she said.

Lawmakers maintain their work with the ISTEP isn’t done. More bills are expected to be drafted targeting last year’s scores and the future of the controversial test.

“I’ve termed the current situation a fiasco and a debacle,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said in an interview Monday. “I don’t use those words lightly.”

Here’s a look at how some central Indiana districts fared overall (numbers are for students who passed both English and math):

Indianapolis Public Schools
2014: 51.6%
2015: 29.0%

2014: 85.3%
2015: 67.0%

2014: 93%
2015: 81.8%

2014: 90.5%
2015: 79.7%

Hamilton Southeastern
2014: 87.9%
2015: 73.6%

2014: 85.3%
2015: 69.3%

2014: 87.2%
2015: 68.9%

2014: 92.8%
2015: 80.1%


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