The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 25, 2016 10:00 pm

Blurry vision on ISTEP+ stand-in

Glenda Ritz

I ran for public office because I was concerned about the amount of time Hoosier students were spending on high-stakes, pass-fail tests. I pledged to get rid of tests such as ISTEP+ so that children across our state would have more time for learning and teachers would have more time for teaching. The Indiana General Assembly finally followed my lead and ended ISTEP+ after the end of the coming school year.

I have long been committed to changing the testing environment in Indiana. High-stakes testing affects every child, educator and family in our state, and I will keep fighting for a change. I encourage all Hoosiers to be involved in this public conversation.

I travel throughout Indiana every week, and everywhere I go, students, parents and educators tell me that we spend too much time testing and not enough time teaching and learning. That is why I was encouraged by House Enrolled Act 1395, which created a panel charged with finding a way to reduce the amount of time spent on testing, reduce the amount of money spent on testing, and increase transparency for schools, teachers and students – all while taking advantage of newly available federal flexibility to end the pass-fail approach of ISTEP+.

As a member of this panel, I approached this work with excitement over how it could bring meaningful change to our classrooms for both our students and our teachers. I met with the chair prior to the panel‘s first meeting and promised that the Indiana Department of Education would provide any and all necessary resources to the panel as it finds a way beyond ISTEP+. Personally, I prepared to bring much-needed ideas about a streamlined, student-centered testing system that can actually inform teaching and learning.

Unfortunately, after three months of meetings, we are no closer to getting rid of ISTEP+ than we were four years ago. Instead of allowing your elected education leader to lead the ISTEP+ panel, the legislature allowed the most political person in our state, Gov. Mike Pence, to control the panel.

The panel has now met three times and has failed even to settle on a vision, much less begin the process of finding a way beyond the mess that is the expensive, bloated and high-stakes ISTEP+ we subject our students to every spring. Frankly, our students need and deserve better.

We need to spend more time teaching. We need to spend less time testing. We need to get rid of ISTEP+ and replace it with something that actually works for students instead of re-branding it and then trying to sell it to Hoosiers. Our state deserves better.

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