A local school official is weighing in on state lawmakers’ proposal to replace the ISTEP with an “off-the-shelf” test.
Eastern Pulaski School Superintendent Dan Foster says he’s not sure what the best option is but the current system isn’t working, “We’ve said it for a year, ‘This is going to be a train wreck.’ We bailed on Common Core, which I have no comment on [and] Indiana standards [were] thrown out, right as the school year’s starting. Of course, the state does not help us with professional development money anymore, so how do you get this information to the teachers? How do they have time to adjust it to their curriculum? And then you get into the ISTEP and then you have the actual testing problems. And then you have apparently questionable scoring. So it was a train wreck waiting to happen, and unfortunately the train crashed.”
He says the ISTEP system isn’t necessarily fair to students. “I don’t like a norm reference test where you’re comparing kids against kids,” he says. “If you want to measure that individual’s progress, that’s okay. The former GQE, the Graduation Qualifying Exam; the algebra ECA – there’s a set score. If the student gets that score, they pass. But setting up a system where, basically, you’re in the old-fashioned bell curve where you’re guaranteeing a certain percent will not pass, I’m not sure that’s the best thing to do to our kids.” Foster also thinks this system poses problems for teachers, who are evaluated based on these scores.
He says changes that have been made to the ISTEP won’t help much, “I don’t think this next school year’s going to be a whole lot better. It’s another test. We’ve been told that this vendor, which is now Pearson, has had some issues in some other states.”
In spite of all this, Foster hopes a positive outcome can be reached. “I hope that we’ve gotten some attention,” he says. “I know even the Republicans in the legislature now are taking a serious look at this and saying maybe this isn’t the best way to do it. So, I don’t have the answer either, but I think we need to sit down at a table together, Republicans, Democrats, and education people. Politicians making these decisions on the educators, that would be like me going into a surgery and telling the doctor how to operate – I don’t know anything about it. So why do we have politicians telling us how we need to educate?”
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma has come out in favor of replacing the ISTEP, after the federal No Child Left Behind law was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act earlier this month.