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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 06, 2016 10:03 pm

ISTEP+ bills easily clear first hurdles

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A legislative effort to protect schools and teachers from the negative impacts of 2015 ISTEP+ test results leaped over its first hurdle Wednesday.

The House Education Committee unanimously passed House Bill 1003. It would prohibit the use of ISTEP+ scores to negatively impact a teacher’s evaluation, pay or bonuses.

A few hours later, the Senate Education Committee voted 10-1 on Senate Bill 200, which would hold schools and corporations "harmless" in terms of their A-F accountability grade for the 2014-15 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 it’s previous year grade.

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.

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

Both bills could be voted on by their respective chambers Tuesday. An expedited process could have them considered in the opposing chamber and finalized before the State Board of Education Committee scheduled for Jan. 19. 

No one opposed the teacher pay measure but several groups raised concerns about the A-F accountability legislation.

"Our concern today is that the bill before you represents a step away from that commitment to accountability that together we have worked so hard to establish for the betterment of all Hoosier students," said Caitlin Bell, vice president of policy and government affairs for the Institute for Quality Education.

Stand for Children Indiana also opposed the bill, saying the results are a more honest reflection of how students are doing than under previous standards that weren’t college-and-career ready.

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, said he sees the predicament because he has been a strong proponent of holding schools accountable in the past and believes it has helped improve performance overall.

"I have the same concerns – that we will be back here a year from now asking for another pause for another year," he said.

He did, however, support the bill. The only no vote came from Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis.

nkelly@jg.net