Schools being told to remain ready to give longer ISTEP exam

In this file photo taken on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, talks to the media after naming Rep. Suzanne Crouch R-Evansville, Indiana State Auditor at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State education officials said Tuesday they were telling schools to be ready to give Indiana’s standardized test in its current form even as an expert hired by the governor’s office started looking for ways to shorten the exam.

The separate moves by the Department of Education and Gov. Mike Pence came amid outcries from parents and educators over a sharp increase in the time needed for students to take the ISTEP exam.

Ways of possibly shortening the test are to be discussed during a special state Board of Education meeting on Friday, but state schools Deputy Superintendent Danielle Shockey said it wasn’t clear what changes could be made before the first possible day of the testing period arrives on Feb. 25.

“We are planning to move ahead with the ISTEP as planned given that is the expectation, right now, of the state and the federal government,” Shockey told reporters.

Pence has hired Edward Roeber, an assessment expert from Michigan, to review the ISTEP exam that will be administered to about 450,000 students in grades 3 through 8 this spring and make recommendations for shortening it by Feb. 20, the governor’s office said. Roeber also will consult on the 2016 exam and any necessary pilot tests that arise from his recommendations.

His contract calls for him to be paid up to $22,000.

Pence said Monday that he was “deeply troubled” that the time needed to administer the revamped test would more than double for all grades, from about five hours to up to 12 hours, 30 minutes for third-graders. He said that created a hardship for students, their families and teachers.

Pence’s move came a day after he issued an executive order requiring that the exam be shortened.

The high-stakes test was revamped to align with new academic standards adopted last April after Indiana became the first state to pull out of the national Common Core guidelines. Student test scores are used to calculate teacher pay, school funding and school grades under the state’s “A-F” rating system.

Shockey said the governor and others have created “a false impression” of youngsters sitting for extended testing sessions. She said schools can spread the test time over two periods of up to 15 days starting Feb. 25 and April 27.

School principals and others who’ve been preparing schedules on how to administer the exams are now facing uncertainty, Shockey said.

“The governor has created mass confusion,” she said.

A Pence spokeswoman didn’t immediately comment on the Department of Education’s response.

The dispute over the ISTEP test comes as the Republican governor is backing bills in the GOP-dominated Legislature to shift authority away from schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, the only Democrat holding a Statehouse office, to the State Board of Education, which is controlled by Pence appointees.

Shockey said the education department’s staff has tried to brainstorm ways to shorten the test after federal officials directed the state to essentially combine the actual test with questions from the pilot test — data from which will be factored in a new test students will be given next year.

“We have tried to exhaust as many of the options as, I feel, the governor’s expert may find,” she said.

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