Committee approves ISTEP changes

File Photo. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana legislators took the first step Tuesday toward approving changes to the state’s standardized tests to cut the time thousands of students will spend taking them this year.

The House Education Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill permitting actions that state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz proposed last week to shave at least three hours from the ISTEP+ exam, mostly by eliminating some questions. The revamped test was to have taken students about 12 hours — about double from last year.

The bill would waive the state law requiring the Department of Education to release non-multiple choice or true/false questions for parents to review, allowing parents to review those questions only if they agree to not disclose the content. That will cut the number of needed pilot questions, which can be used in future tests.

The committee also supported suspending this year’s state-required social studies exam for grades 5 and 7, a move that will save those students an hour of testing time.

Gov. Mike Pence said he supports the proposals.

“We’re all working together to shorten this test,” he said. “We’re going to get it done, just like we said.”

House and Senate leaders plan to have the bill reach the governor’s desk next week. Some 450,000 students in grades 3 through 8 begin taking the tests this month.

The moves come after parents and educators protested testing times for the exam, which was redesigned to align with new state standards created after Indiana withdrew from the national Common Core standards last year.

The state Department of Education, which Ritz leads, now oversees the ISTEP test, but another bill advanced by the House committee on Tuesday would give the State Board of Education authority to establish “criteria for content and format” of the exam.

Education Department officials told lawmakers that the agency was already working with board members on those issues.

Committee Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said he disagreed with assertions that the proposal would lead to a duplication of work.

“It doesn’t say the state board has to go out and do it independently,” he said. “It just says they work together on it.”

 

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