ISTEP Replacement Bill Clears House

Feb 20, 2017

The Indiana House passed legislation Monday to replace the ISTEP exam starting in the 2018-19 school year.

House Bill 1003 was approved in a 67-31 vote. It offers the basic framework for a new exam called I-LEARN. That stands for Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network.

Rep. Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) authored the bill and said it includes recommendations from educators on how to make the exam better than ISTEP.

“Make it shorter. Quicker return. End of year assessment,” he said when asked what would set the test apart. “A single test window. And have Hoosier educators directly involved in either creation or grading of it.”

The bill calls for a standardized exam for students in grades 3-8 and for students to take an end of course assessment at least once in grades 9-12.

The legislation also allows the State Board of Education to decide whether to purchase a so-called off-the-shelf exam or oversee the design of a unique test for Indiana. Lawmakers and experts have debated those choices this session.

Before Monday’s vote, some lawmakers pleaded with their colleagues to vote the measure down. But Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, reminded them that some type of standardized test was required by the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act.

Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) refused to say Behning’s name as he decried the bill as a short-sighted attempt at creating a complex testing system. He took issue with the title of proposed exam, asking why teachers should be evaluated by it when the ISTEP has become a faulty measure of teacher effectiveness.

“Our purpose is to not to really help children,” he said, mockingly. “It is to embarrass schools with a population that comes from lower socioeconomic standings and communities.”

The ISTEP has become a political and educational flash point during recent years. Computer problems have plagued the administration of the exam at local schools. State officials have fought over the length of the exam.

Two years ago a hastily designed and updated ISTEP, coupled with new academic standards, led to a 21-point drop in the state average pass rate. Scores from the exam last year fell further. Superintendents across the state have said they no longer believe the test is a quality measure of student achievement.

The British-owned Pearson is administrating the ISTEP+ as part of a $38 million two-year contract that ends this year.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.