Officials want ISTEP results faster

GREENFIELD — Results from Indiana’s standardized test won’t come for at least six months, leading school officials to ask state lawmakers to consider a replacement for the high-stakes exam.

The paper-pencil portion of ISTEP is complete, but, ISTEP results aren’t expected until at least October, which is two months into the new school year.

That’s too late to improve teaching techniques, said local school officials.

“I need data now so I can adapt the learning tomorrow,” said Randy Harris, Eastern Hancock superintendent.

Senate Bill 566 would replace ISTEP with a yet-to-be-determined “best” test starting in 2016. Mike Horton, assistant superintendent for Mt. Vernon schools, is in favor of the proposed change.

Mt. Vernon schools use a test of the Northwest Evaluation Association to measure where elementary students stand three times a year. Horton argues such a test shows administrators where students are and how they’re improving because the questions get more difficult as the test goes on.

Marking student growth throughout the school year is key, Horton said, and he’d like to see the NWEA or a similar exam become the new state standard.

“If a student grows 20 percent, then learning is taking place,” Horton said.

“Unfortunately, the data you get from ISTEP doesn’t give you that. So it’s almost a farce we’re using ISTEP for growth, and it doesn’t measure growth.”

Getting ISTEP results six months after the test is not unusual. But this year in particular, state education officials will have to weigh how to grade the exam because standards for the test were changed, said Ann Vail, Greenfield-Central assistant superintendent.

But the sooner school administrators can get results from ISTEP, the quicker improvements can be made in the classroom to help students learn the following school year, she said.

“I hope an assessment is really used to determine what is next, for a student or a class,” Vail said. “The more current the data is … gives us the best opportunity to make the right decisions and have positive results.”

There are two kinds of standardized tests that can be used, she said. A test like the current ISTEP measures whether students meet grade-level standards. But other types of exams can measure student growth throughout the year.

Regardless of possible changes and the outcome of Senate Bill 566, Vail hopes for consistency in the near future.

The state standardized exam has seen many changes in recent years, she said, and every time a change happens, teachers must have additional training and technology needs to be upgraded.