June 24, 2014


Yesterday, the Education Roundtable convened to propose changes that would overhaul ISTEP to align more closely with Indiana’s new college and career-ready standards. Among one of the major points of contention between Superintendent Ritz and Governor Pence was whether to expand ISTEP to include measures of student reading comprehension.


Ritz offered an amendment to the resolution that would have allowed future ISTEP tests to measure student growth data for reading. IREAD 3 currently assesses whether students pass or fail, and Ritz strongly asserted that educators need much more informative data that follows students throughout their school careers rather than ending in 3rd grade. Providing data that follows the student is particularly important for addressing issues faced by high student mobility.


While Ritz’s amendment was a simple and positive revision of policy guidance and language proposed by CECI and Pence’s education advisor Claire Fiddian-Green, the amendment failed 9-18. The Governor urged the board to maintain IREAD 3 because of its track record in raising student reading proficiency. However, IREAD 3 has received criticisms from Indiana educators. ISTA President Teresa Meredith asserted that the IREAD 3 exam fails to provide adequate and meaningful data to educators regarding a student’s reading comprehension.


Several other members of the Roundtable indicated an interest in discussing such changes in the future but felt that additional costs and implementation concerns may not be feasible at this time. The overall resolution passed with Ritz as the only vote against it. The State Board will have the final authority to adopt the resolution at a later date.


The resolution included other changes, including mandatory testing in grades 3 to 10, which is an expansion of ISTEP from current testing in grades 3 to 8. Exams for K-2 would remain optional.


The Indiana Department of Education is working to revise the ISTEP to meet the college and career-readiness requirement to maintain the federal ESEA waiver. ISTEP will continue through 2014-15, and a new assessment will be introduced in 2015-16. DOE is now accepting proposals from testing vendors to undergo this process.


The tone at yesterday’s meeting was troubling. Superintendent Ritz offered a common sense improvement to Indiana's testing framework that would have given parents, teachers and students a clearer indication of student performance.