ISTEP review committee includes Roncalli principal

A southside principal will help lawmakers with their decision next year of what should replace the ISTEP exam.

Roncalli High School principal Chuck Weisenbach was selected along with about 20 other educators statewide to study alternatives to the ISTEP exam. Weisenbach was one of five people nominated by Gov. Mike Pence to be on the committee.

The committee was formed under legislation approved during this year’s session, which said the ISTEP exam could be replaced once the test’s program expires in July 2017. By this fall, the group of 23 educators will make a recommendation on what could be used instead of the ISTEP to the Indiana Department of Education. That information will be used to help decide the new state-mandated test.

The ISTEP exam has been repeatedly criticized by teachers, superintendents and legislators for issues, such as schools receiving delayed results from the state, new versions of the exam every year with different benchmarks and being forced to test online, using programs that crash or fail. Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill in March that called for establishing a panel to study the methods of school accountability, teacher evaluations and find alternatives to the ISTEP exam.

Weisenbach has experienced the woes of the ISTEP exam, particularly with complex or conflicting instructions for administering the test to students, he said. For example, administrators would routinely get emails from the Indiana Department of Education listing changes that need to be made, last-minute updates to ISTEP or test questions that schools should disregard, he said.

“I would hope that, collectively, we are able to present options that are more streamlined, for one,” Weisenbach said. “It shouldn’t be that complicated.”

In addition, Weisenbach hopes the review committee can find a test or method that gives teachers and administrators data they can use, he said.

Comparing one class of high school students with the next year’s class is not an accurate way to measure what students are learning, Weisenbach said. Instead, the test should measure how students have grown from year to year.

Weisenbach wants to research assessments which could replace the ISTEP exam, including other versions of the ACT and the Northwest Evaluation Association assessment which is used in many elementary schools locally. Several local educators have advocated replacing the ISTEP exam with the Northwest Evaluation Association assessment, which is given three times per year to show individual student growth.

Weisenbach had not volunteered to serve on the committee but was notified when Pence announced his name, he said. Weisenbach said he believes he was nominated by the governor because of his work with the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, an organization that represents more than 400 non-public schools statewide, he said.

The review committee is slated to start meeting in July, he said.

Members of ISTEP committee

Here is the list of who is serving on a committee to discuss how to replace the ISTEP exam:

Glenda Ritz, superintendent of public instruction

Steve Braun, commissioner of workforce development

Teresa Lubbers, commissioner for higher education

Dennis Kruse, chairman of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee

Robert Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee

Byron Ernest, Indiana State Board of Education

Nicole Fama, principal at Indianapolis Public Schools

Jim Roberts, superintendent of Batesville Community School Corp.

Chuck Weisenbach, principal of Roncalli High School

Brent Freeman, special education officer at Indianapolis Public Schools

Michelle McKeown, Indiana Charter School Board

Ayana Wilson-Coles, third grade teacher at Pike Township Schools, Indianapolis

Julie Kemp, principal at North Spencer County School Corp.

Wendy Robinson, superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools

Callie Marksbary, Indiana State Teachers Association

Jean Russell, literacy specialist at Southwest Allen County Schools

Steve Baker, principal at Bluffton High School

Kenneth Folks, superintendent at East Allen County Schools

Marilyn Moran-Townsend, chairman and CEO of CVC Communications

Melissa Scherle, second grade teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools

Edward Rangel, assistant principal at Tindley Genesis charter school

Scot Croner, superintendent of Blackford County Schools

Lynne Stallings, assistant professor, Ball State University