by David Murphy Governor Mike Pence has signed an executive order to shorten the length of the 2015 ISTEP+, which is scheduled to be administered in March.
The order is Pence’s response to the uproar that followed last week’s announcement that this year’s tests would take more than twice as much time for students to take as they did last year.The average time is up from around 5 hours to around 12 hours.
Pence’s proposal would only take effect after the appointment of a so-called assessment expert and a presentation of the ensuing report to the State Board of Education and the Department of Education. Today, Pence’s office announced that he had named Edward Roeber, a private sector testing consultant, to carry out his wishes.
This flap over I-STEP+ is only the latest in a long line of problems and complaints the test has caused since its inception. Since teacher pay and promotion is increasingly based on the performance of students on the tests, many say there is increased pressure to ‘teach-to-the-test.’
Some teachers now prefer teaching in schools and districts where higher socio-economic conditions tend to boost test scores. At the other end of the spectrum, poorer schools and districts, which produce lower test results, are put on track for eventual privatization. The most recent estimate is that the state department of education paid outside firms and consultants $31 million for the tests.
At the local level, the Monroe County Community School Corporation had to add five days to the school calendar year just to administer the test when it was originally introduced. On top of that administrative cost is the supplemental time and cost of test preparation, pre-testing, and test processing.
Last year, the test practice time was about an hour. This year it has grown to six hours.
Other problems have arisen in the actual application of the tests, including computer glitches during tests, errors in score calculation, and even the fudging of results, the most notorious being when former state superintendent of education, Tony Bennett, was caught raising the score of a charter school run by a big GOP donor. ISTEP + testing begins next month in Monroe County and across the state.