New classroom testing proposal considered by lawmakers

INDIANAPOLIS — A new test could hit Indiana classrooms in 2018, replacing the current ISTEP test program.

ILEARN, which stands for Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network, would take ISTEP’s place, and is what Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, is calling an alternative approach.

Through House Bill 1003, authored by Behning, students in Grades 3 through 8 would be required to complete the statewide assessment, which for the next three years would be the same as ISTEP — just a new name. Schools would have the option to administer a benchmark assessment, paid for by the state, and would implement policies used to improve ways of gathering data and information from the results.

Few changes would be made from the current statewide test program.

While students in high school would be required to take at least one ILEARN assessment in high school in English/language arts and mathematics, the social studies test previously administered to Grades 5 and 7 would be eliminated.

High school students would also continue to be required to pass an End-of-Course Assessment in English, Algebra 1 and Science to graduate. This is different from the ISTEP Grade 10 ELA and mathematics tests used to replace the previous ECA in 2016.

Nicole Fama, principal of Indianapolis Public School 93, chaired the ISTEP panel which represented educators, business owners, lawmakers from across the state. She said several of the points made in Behning’s bill originated from the panel’s suggestions.

“This bill is the closest thing I’ve seen in a long time that represents what educators are looking for,” Fama said.

Under HB 1003, high schools must administer a “nationally recognized college-or career-readiness test,” which could range from an Advanced Placement test to a college entrance exam. The Indiana State Board of Education would have to approve the chosen assessment.

While several educators spoke in support of HB 1003 Tuesday, many asked lawmakers to consider adding stronger benchmark assessments.

One Indiana charter school teacher said the addition of these benchmark assessments would help teachers earn a sense of whether a student is prepared for the end-of-year test.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, previously said the state needed “an affordable, fast and effective tool for students, parents, teachers and schools” to determine student progress. But several people did not trust ILEARN was that tool.

A majority of the Republican committee members remained silent on the issue, but the Democratic committee members were not hesitant to speak.

“I’m against taking the ISTEP test, which has totally failed us all, extending it for two years and changing it’s name, and doing the same thing,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis.

Instead, DeLaney would like the federal government to give Indiana a waiver and skip taking a test until the new test is ready.

The House Education Committee is scheduled to meet today to amend and vote on the bill.