April 26, 2016

First Appointments Made For ISTEP+ Review Panel

Six Indiana educators, a former education policymaker and a teachers union representative are the first appointees to a panel that will decide the future of standardized testing in Indiana.

The 23-person panel – created by a law that calls for the elimination of the Indiana’s current standardized test known as ISTEP+ – will be made up of lawmakers, state agency heads, educators, business leaders, parents and teachers union representatives.

Today’s appointments come from superintendent Glenda Ritz and Senate President Pro Temp David Long. Legislation also allows for House Speaker Brian Bosma and Gov. Mike Pence to make appointments to the panel. They haven’t yet announced their choices.

The panel members will decide how Indiana’s state test will change, and importantly, how the state can use test grades to rate schools and evaluate teachers.

“I have said for years that Indiana needs to get away from the expensive, high-stakes, pass-fail mindset of ISTEP+ and instead, use an assessment that actually works for students, parents and teachers,” said Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz, in a statement.

With Tuesday’s announcements of appointments from Ritz and Indiana Senate President David Long (R-Fort Wayne), a clearer picture is emerging of who will sit on the panel. The law requires the policymakers to appoint a teacher, principal, superintendent and a certain type of community leader.

Here’s a breakdown of the known appointees:

From Ritz:

  • Ayana Wilson-Coles, a third grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School
  • Julie Kemp, Principal at Chrisney Elementary School
  • Wendy Robinson, Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools
  • Callie Marksbary, Indiana State Teachers Association

From Long:

  • Jean Russell, 2016 Indiana Teacher of the Year
  • Steve Baker, Bluffton High School Principal
  • Dr. Kenneth Folks, East Allen County Schools Superintendent
  • Marilyn Moran-Townsend, Chairman and CEO, CVC Communications (former chair of Indiana Higher Education Commission)

Notably, all of Long’s appointments, and Dr. Robinson, come from Northeast Indiana.

“The people I’m appointing today have a wealth of knowledge and experience to contribute to this very important effort,” said Long, in a statement. “Northeast Indiana gets the benefit of having two school district leaders on the panel.”

In it’s current state, ISTEP+ remains controversial because of its “high stakes” nature. The tests determine a school’s A-F grade in state rankings. Test scores are also tied to teacher evaluations and pay.

Critics say those characteristics make the test dominate instruction.

While the new panel can’t eliminate school grades and teacher evaluations, it can diminish the test’s impact on each.

Under state law, the current ISTEP+ must end after the 2016-2017 school year.

The ISTEP review panel will meet over the summer and fall months and submit recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by Dec. 1.

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