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Education

Department of Ed: ISTEP Exam Is On, Despite Pence

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The Indiana Department of Education says it will proceed as planned to issue the ISTEP test beginning Feb. 25, even after Gov. Mike Pence signed an executive order Monday to re-evaluate the test’s length. 

Pence said the length of the upcoming high-stakes test, which at 12 hours is twice as long as last year's exam for some grades, is unacceptable.

Even though the test could change -- after the testing consultant hired through Pence’s executive order issues recommendations on how to shorten the test -- the DOE says they are preparing school districts as if the test will not change. 

Deputy state superintendent Danielle Shockey says Pence’s actions only add to the confusion in preparing for this year’s ISTEP.

“I guarantee, principals had already taken this Part 1 (of ISTEP) and started mapping out where all their students were going to be sitting in what classrooms with which adults and what session was going to happen on which day," she said. "They were ready for this, so any confusion would not be something I suggest we created.”

Shockey says state Superintendent Glenda Ritz is open to ideas on how to shorten the exam, but the questions removed from this spring’s ISTEP could reappear this fall in the form of a field test.

Other changes to the exam, such as Pence’s suggestion of removing social studies portion, would require action by the General Assembly.

The department of education maintains that the State Board of Education and Pence’s education staff were made aware at the Aug. 6 board meeting of the additional questions that would be on the Spring 2015 ISTEP.

But according to meeting minutes, details about the length of the test was not yet known:

"(Board member Brad) Oliver asked how much longer the test would be this year. Dr. Michelle Walker (of the state DOE) said that this is something that they are still looking at in conjunction with CTB and since the items are still being reviewed, there is no way to know just yet."

Shockey said CTB informed the department in the last week of Janaury about the length of the exam.

As of Tuesday afternoon the department and Pence’s office had yet to speak with the other about the test.

An emergency meeting of the State Board of Education is set for Friday to discuss the length of the ISTEP.

Pence has hired Edward Roeber of Michigan, who specializes in large-scale educational assessments, to make suggestions to Ritz and CTB/McGraw-Hill, the company developing the exam. 

Roeber is being paid $11,000 to assess the ISTEP by Feb. 20, according to his contract with the state. That is five days before the testing window for the exam starts.

Neither Ritz nor the CTB will be required to implement Roeber’s suggestions, although both said they will cooperate with the study.

The governor said in a letter to Ritz that “doubling the length of the 2015 ISTEP+ test is unacceptable and requires an immediate solution.”

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