Lawmakers want ISTEP rescored, but who would pay? 

click to enlarge The Education Committee hears testimony concerning House Bill 1395. - BY NICOLE HERNANDEZ
  • The Education Committee hears testimony concerning House Bill 1395.
  • By Nicole Hernandez

By Shelby D. Salazar

The House Committee on Education saw support for a bill that would call for a rescore of the 2015 ISTEP test, but there were plenty of questions over exactly how a rescore should be done, who is to blame, and who is to pay the bill.

“It is important that we establish a solid baseline so that everyone has confidence that this time next year, we’re not in the same position,” said author of the bill, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

House Bill 1395 would allow the Department of Education, along with the State Board of Education, to contract a third-party vendor to rescore the ISTEP test. Many want a rescore to be done so that the established baseline under the new ISTEP test can be validated, and to restore confidence in the assessment going forward.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, rescoring the entire ISTEP test could cost up to $10 million. Behning, who is also the chair of the committee, proposed doing the rescore based on a sampling of ISTEP tests, instead of every single one. This would help to minimize the total costs and the time necessary to complete the rescore.

Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, raised the question of who would pay for the rescore.

“There is no appropriation in here, which is one of the reasons we’re going to have to look at some amendment if we move forward,” Behning said. “Obviously someone is going to have to pay for it. The goal is to have the smallest possible costs, and the most solid validity.”

Behning emphasized that he is sensitive to the potential costs, but wants to provide the public with reassurance about the ISTEP test.

Chad Timmerman, director of education policy for the governor, echoed Behning’s concerns about the rescoring costs and supported a sampling rescore.

“The idea would be a taxpayer friendly one,” Timmerman said. “It would be the cheapest option to assure that individual test scores are valid and accurate.”

Timmerman presented a letter from Edward Roeber, an advisor to the State Board of Education, which outlined a possible approach to a partial-sample rescore. The sample would include 5,000 randomly selected students, about eight percent of the total number of students tested.

Timmerman said Gov. Mike Pence feels strongly about the issue, and is in favor of a rescore. He also said the governor’s office has been in talks with the Department of Education, but did not go into detail about those talks.

“It really is a good way for us to take a step back and think carefully about how we measure schools and school performance,” Timmerman said.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, asked Timmerman who is responsible for the mess up: the vendor CTB/McGraw Hill, or the state. He said committee members need to consider who is accountable before moving forward.

“As a small-business owner, if I mess up, I eat it. I eat my mistakes,” Lucas said. “Where do we find out who started and initiated this investigation? We need to hold them accountable, instead of the state.”

Timmerman said that the Department of Education “is generally responsible for oversight of the vendor.”

“But a lot of this is to-be-determined because we haven’t pursued any sort of lawsuit. It’s not the point of the rescore,” Timmerman said. “The point of the rescore is to insure public confidence.”

Danielle Shockey, deputy superintendent of public instruction, said the Department of Education wants to focus on the future.

“The department would like to wait for data that would support the need for a costly and very time-consuming rescore,” Shockey said. “We are going to focus our efforts prospectively. We have a new vendor and a new ISTEP beginning in two months. Both of those things require a great deal of attention.”

Shockey said the new accountability model focuses on independent student growth for the first time, and the Department of Education wants to focus on “where we are moving towards, not where we are coming from.”

Scott Turney, executive director of the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association, gave his support for an ISTEP test rescore. He also voiced support from the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and the Indiana School Boards Association.

“We believe in a solid baseline,” Turney said. “It is what we are judged against.”

Turney echoed concerns over the costs and is supportive of conducting a partial rescore.

John O’Neal, government relations for the Indiana State Teachers Association, said the fiscal impact and who pays for the costs, are a big concern for ISTA.

“That’s money we could put into the classroom,” O’Neal said. “It’s a lot of money to be spending on a new baseline.”

O’Neal said he believes that the rescore is not necessary since Indiana is transitioning into the new ISTEP assessment.

“Is it really the best use of funds to be rescoring something that we are basically transitioning out of,” O’Neal said. “The whole situation has been a mess, but when we look at that figure attached to it, maybe we can come up with an alternative moving forward rather than going backwards.”

ISTA believes the ISTEP test does not measure what the organization hopes is actually happening with student learning in the classroom.

“Next year, I don’t think any of us want to be back here again,” Behning said. “We don’t have to have the argument that we didn’t have a solid base to start from. That’s why I feel like we need a solid baseline.”

The committee plans to discuss the bill again at a future meeting.

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