The state’s ISTEP panel met for the second time Tuesday, with much of the discussion focusing on what the vision for the new assessment is. Many panel members struggled to agree on a shared goal.
The panel, established during the 2016 General Assembly, meets every month until December 2016 and will design a new state assessment to replace the ISTEP+. The 23-person panel is comprised of educators, legislators, state agency heads and business leaders.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Marilyn Moran-Townsend, CEO of CVC Communications, said the group must have a goal for the assessment before digging into issues of technology, format and contract processes. This suggestion turned out to be complicated for much of the group.
Many of the educators that spoke up during the discussion, including Ft. Wayne Community Schools superintendent Wendy Robinson, want to have a more philosophical conversation about what this test would measure and what the state wants to know about student academic achievement.
“I just don’t want to get into the weeds until I’m clear that everybody on this committee, we’re all focused on the same thing,” Robinson said. “Teachers don’t want to get rid of testing, they just want to make sure what you’re having them spend valuable time on is actually going to help them change practice to get to proficiency, because that’s the goal.”
Scot Croner, superintendent of Blackford County Schools, brought up a specific goal he wants the panel to discuss. He says whenever the subject of testing has come up in recent years, people involved in the conversation say they want it to test if a student is ready for college or career. But how that actually plays out isn’t equal. He says students in his district’s welding program perform the worst on their End of Course Assessment with a 70 percent passage rate. But these same students have the highest passing rate for their industry exam, with 96 percent passing the welding exam. Which means they are ready for a career, but that’s not reflected on any state measurement.
“It’s mind numbingly painful to think we try to create these arbitrary tests that somehow measure college and career, when to my knowledge I think we know what college readiness means in the form of a test,” Croner said. ” It’s called the SAT and the ACT.”
While Croner and others wanted to have this vision set in stone before moving forward, many at the state level, including superintendent Glenda Ritz, Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers and Representative Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, were more focused on the logistics of format, technology and selection of a test vendor.
But discussions around these issues didn’t take place today. Before adjourning, Chair Nicole Fama asked the other 22 panel members to email her their individual visions for the test.
The panel has six more meetings before the December deadline to submit their redesign plan.