Education Officials Warn Against Purely Multiple Choice ISTEP

Sep 9, 2015

The Department of Education says students need to be tested on writing ability, too.
Credit Alberto G. / https://www.flickr.com/photos/albertogp123/

As Indiana begins the transition to a new company to design and administer the ISTEP exam, legislators are discussing whether to scrap the test in favor of something shorter.

A bill to replace ISTEP with an off-the-shelf test passed the Senate before stalling in the House.

American Federation of Teachers spokeswoman Sally Sloan says ISTEP isn't suited to the many calculations it's now used for, from teacher salaries to school accountability grades. And school administrators say ISTEP scores are released so late in the school year that it reduces their ability to adjust instruction or teacher development plans accordingly.

The Department of Education isn't taking a position, though director of assessment Michelle Walker warns against going to a pure multiple-choice test. Walker says next year's test will be shorter, after this year's furor over a test originally scheduled to take 12 hours. Legislators rushed through some adjustments to lop three hours off the testing time.

Next year, the test will take anywhere from just under six hours for third and eighth graders to eight-and-a-half for high school sophomores. Each grade level is different because science and social studies exams are given only in some grades, not all.