By Alaa Abdeldaiem
The road to finding an alternative to the state’s controversial ISTEP test has officially begun.
The 23-person panel tasked with finding an alternative to the standardized exam met for the first time Tuesday.
The group was asked to propose new testing approaches that will reduce testing time, reduce the cost of test administration and make the test more transparent after Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill in March to eliminate the old exam after 2017.
“The goals of this meeting were to get a better understanding of the various assessments, their purpose and goals in the education system, understand the current assessment landscape in Indiana, and also gain a better understanding of the Every Student Succeeds Act and federal requirements,” IPS Principal and Committee Chair Nicole Fama said.
The session began with the University of Kansas’s Center for Education Test and Evaluation director Marianne Perie’s explanation of assessment design and content items.
Perie emphasized the importance of lining up the exam’s items with the state’s standards to ensure the test results represent exactly what the state was looking to study.
“The blueprint of an exam has to cover all standards at the levels intended. What evidence do you want to see to show a student has mastered a standard? What standards do we emphasize and care most about? Can standards be meaningfully combined or should they be measured individually?” Perie said. “These are questions you want to ask yourself when you’re developing a blueprint for an exam.”
Perie also addressed the issue of reliability in standardized exams. According to her studies, reliability increases with additional items on the assessment.
After testing time reached a high of eight hours with the ISTEP, however, the panel is seeking ways to enhance reliability without necessarily lengthening the exam.
Perie explained that, while improving reliability may lengthen the assessment, how the test is administered could alleviate some of the stresses that come with a long exam.
“It’s less about the length and more about how we break it up,” Perie said. “We have to determine what the best administration practices are to make sure that kids don’t burn out.”
Not only are members of the panel studying how the new assessment can measure student performance, but they are also considering a test that can evaluate growth, teacher performance and school quality as well.
“Can you do all of those things well in all assessment? In one very, very long assessment, yes,” Perie said. “That’s taking a lot of different assessment designs to do that, though.”
Current ISTEP protocols were then explained with a focus on how the test was assembled. The process includes developing a blueprint, creating test items and internally reviewing the content before administering pilot items and operational field tests.
With multiple options on the table, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz hopes upcoming discussions will determine which path to take.
“I think we’ll have a better idea about the timeframe we’ll need when we start addressing the purpose of the test and the vision for the test,” Ritz said. “Following that, I think there will be a good conversation about the type of test, and once we get to that point, I think those conversations will drive us.”
Ritz said the project is an opportunity to shape education in Indiana for years to come.
“This is a conversation considering a whole variety of options,” Ritz said. “That’s the cool thing about these conversations, though. We really get to design the entire system into what we want it to be for the next many years.”
The ISTEP review panel has until Dec. 1 to submit its recommendations for an alternative test to the General Assembly.