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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 12:38 pm

House and Senate pass emergency ISTEP+ measures

Niki KellyThe Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana House and Senate passed emergency measures Tuesday to negate harmful consequences tied to last year's ISTEP+ accountability test. 

Two separate bills are moving and now switch to the other chamber. The hope is to have the legislation to Gov. Mike Pence for his signature as soon as possible.

The House approved House Bill 1003 protecting teachers 95-1.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 200 protecting schools 48-1.

All northeast Indiana lawmakers supported the bills. Those against were Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis and Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis.

"This a one year fix only," said Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn. "I think it's the proper thing for us to do and I would appreciate your support of this bill."

ISTEP scores dropped drastically largely due to the state moving to new college and career-ready academic standards, as well as a more rigorous test.

Pence, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Republican legislative leaders agree a one-year pause is necessary during this transition.

The House legislation prohibits the use of ISTEP scores to negatively impact a teacher's evaluation, pay or bonuses. State performance pay for teachers has been held up until this bill becomes law.

The Senate bill would hold schools and corporations "harmless" in terms of their A-F accountability grade for the 2014-2015 school year.

Those grades primarily rely on ISTEP scores. Under the bill, a school's grade could go up but not down. If the calculation was for a lower grade the school would receive its previous year grade.

Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, called the bill a "dog and pony show" and questioned why legislators aren't also holding students harmless by throwing out the test.

But he ultimately supported the legislation.

The pair of bills will now be heard in committee in the opposite chamber.

nkelly@jg.net