Collaborative effort needed to fix state’s ISTEP debacle

The fall semester for local schools is over, and still educators do not have detailed ISTEP scores. By the time they get them next month, there won’t be enough time to properly analyze the scores and to develop individualized improvement plans before students prepare for this year’s testing.

Aside from slow scores, the testing itself was marred by last-minute changes in the length and technical problems during administration of the exam.

To say that last year’s testing was a fiasco is putting it mildly; and no one’s happy about it.

State Rep. Woody Burton, Sen. Greg Walker and Sen. Brent Waltz met with about a dozen of Johnson County school leaders this month to understand what improvements need to be made to the ISTEP exam.

According to Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck, the meeting originally was to address the current state of education in general, but not surprisingly ISTEP dominated the discussion. Superintendents, assistant superintendents and testing coordinators from Greenwood, Franklin, Clark-Pleasant, Center Grove and Indian Creek are asking legislators to suspend the school district’s letter grade system, which is based on last year’s ISTEP scores.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma considers education a top priority and has been meeting with education committee chairman State Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, to solve the issues from last year’s ISTEP, Burton said.

The education committee of the Indiana General Assembly is finishing a proposal to suspend teacher evaluations based on last spring’s ISTEP exam.

Walker and Burton both said they want to see new standards set in place for next year’s ISTEP exam and to create a long-term solution for state-mandated testing.

Burton put his finger on the key point when he said: “I think we all need to step up to the table and say, ‘We made a mess of this. So let’s fix it.’”

That’s the kind of forthrightness that is needed to navigate a way out of this problem.

In the short term, legislators should fast-track the bill on teacher evaluations, so educators won’t be financially punished for a problem not of their making. And in the long term, all key stakeholders — classroom teachers, principals, superintendents, legislators, state education officials and parents — need to discuss the issue and map out a route forward.

At issue

ISTEP testing during the last school year was plagued by problems from the start.

Our point

All key stakeholders need to develop a long-term strategy for student testing.