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Teachers, Lawmakers Urge Ending Connection Between ISTEP Scores and Teacher Evaluations

A bill in the statehouse would allow schools to decide not to use the statewide academic test for students to determine a teacher's performance in the classroom.

(Photo: Jetta Productions/Thinkstock)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Your kids' ISTEP scores have been part of their teachers' performance evaluations for five years. Legislators are looking at breaking that connection.

State law requires that ISTEP results be a part of how teachers are graded, which in turn plays a role in what they get paid.  Teachers' unions are supporting Terre Haute Republican Jon Ford's bill (Senate Bill 35) to let local schools decide not to.

Blackford County Superintendent Scot Croner says the test is being used to measure things it was never intended to.  And he says the long delays in getting ISTEP scores back, and the problems in recent years with the test itself, have made it all but useless for assessing teacher performance.

New state superintendent Jennifer McCormick is supporting the move.  Legislative affairs director Mike Brown says McCormick like to see legislators go further, and discourage school districts from using ISTEP's eventual replacement, the Advanced Placement test, or any other non-local test.

But the Indiana Chamber and an education reform group say there needs to be an objective measure of whether teachers are getting results.  They argue the bill is an overreaction to ISTEP's recent problems.

Caitlin Gamble with the Institute for Quality Education notes schools already get to decide for themselves how much weight the test scores should receive.  And she says ISTEP can't be hampering teachers' advancement that much,  since just two-percent of teachers are rated as needing to improve.

Legislators agreed to a one-year pause last year in using ISTEP scores to evaluate either teachers or schools, after a sharp drop in scores was attributed to changes in the test.

The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.



Twitter: @WIBC_EricBerman

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