Schools relieved, cautious as they prepare for shorter ISTEP

GREENFIELD — There’s a collective sigh of relief mixed with a bit of apprehension this week among local school administrators who have been given the green light to administer a shorter version of the state’s standardized test.

The Indiana Department of Education has begun notifying schools that already had received the hard copies of the lengthy ISTEP+ exam on changes that will shave more than three hours from testing time for students in grades 3 through 8.

In addition, grades 5 and 7 will no longer have to take the social studies exam.

The changes stem from an uproar over a revamped exam that caused testing times to soar to about 12 hours.

Ann Vail, Greenfield-Central assistant superintendent, said the district has had the paper-pencil version of the test in hand for a couple of weeks. But now, each student will basically be taking half of the hard-copy version of the test.

Some Greenfield-Central schools will take one portion of the test, she added, and the others will take the other portion. So two third-grade students attending two different elementary schools in Greenfield could be taking two different ISTEP exams, Vail said, but the questions are designed to be parallel in difficulty level.

Principals were filled in on the changes Thursday, and students will likely take the exam March 2 through 6. The online portion of the exam will be conducted in May.

The test was revised after Indiana abandoned the Common Core educational standards and crafted its own. Gov. Mike Pence earlier this month ordered the exam be shortened and hired consultants to work with the state department and lawmakers to make it happen quickly.

At Eastern Hancock, Superintendent Randy Harris said they, too, have received instruction on how to conduct the exam next month.

But it worries him, he said, that such a high-stakes test was changed at the last minute. He hopes there aren’t more kinks in the system.

“I am more interested in them getting it right than in the length,” Harris said. “And if they can get it right and make it shorter, they should have made it shorter a long time ago. The Legislature brought this upon themselves when they didn’t go with Common Core a year ago.”