The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, February 24, 2016 5:52 am

Senate agrees to eliminate ISTEP

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The demise of ISTEP+ continued Tuesday when the Indiana Senate voted 38-10 to eliminate the test.

House Bill 1395 would officially retire the ISTEP+ test on July 1, 2017, and sets up a committee tasked with replacing the standardized test used for accountability.

A rough few years with the test has led lawmakers to the realization that the brand is irrevocably damaged and the only way to move forward is with a new test.

"We’re going to move as quickly as we can to a new test that is simpler, easier, fairer," said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. "That’s our goal."

But the bill will go to a conference committee to work out final details.

The legislation creates a 22-member panel to study alternatives and make recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly this December. Some things the panel must consider are the feasibility of using existing national tests, reducing the time and costs associated with the test and transparency and fairness.

Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, the author of the bill, said he doesn’t like how the Senate narrowed the scope of the panel to only testing instead of overall accountability systems for teachers, schools and students.

He also noted he doesn’t agree with putting testing experts directly on the panel.

A conference committee is a small group of legislators from both sides of the aisle appointed to hammer out a final compromise.

Another sticking point with Democrats is that GOP lawmakers have made Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz a member of the committee – but not the chair. Gov. Mike Pence would appoint the chair.

The Senate Republican caucus even turned down an amendment that would have allowed the committee to elect its own chair from among its members. This is the same approach the GOP put into the law for the State Board of Education.

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said it is wrong to not even give Ritz the opportunity to chair given that her office "is where the buck stops." All the votes against the bill came from Democrats.

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