Pence: Shorten ISTEP+ testing time

Gov. Mike Pence is taking action to shorten this year’s ISTEP+ exam, less than a month before students are scheduled to begin testing.

Pence signed an executive order Monday to reduce the length of time to complete the ISTEP, which at least 470,000 Hoosier schoolchildren ages 8 to 14 are set to take this year. The governor has instructed the office of Management and Budget to hire nationally recognized testing experts to find ways to shorten the test. Those experts will then provide a report to the governor’s office, the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana State Board of Education about how ISTEP can be shortened.

The department of education and CTB/McGraw-Hill, the company that wrote and administers ISTEP, will then be expected to make the recommended changes so that the length of ISTEP this year is comparable to past practice, Pence said at a news conference.

In previous years, ISTEP took five to six hours for third- through eighth-grade students to complete. This year’s exam, which will test students over Indiana’s new academic standards, is expected to take students 12 to 13 hours to complete.

Pence said he decided to sign the executive order after hearing from parents during the past week who were stunned and outraged at the length of the test.

“Let me be very clear on this point: Doubling the length of the ISTEP test is unacceptable, and I won’t stand for it,” Pence said. “We need to fix this. And we will. We still have time to get this right. But we must act immediately to do that.”

Pence cited dysfunction between the state board and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz as the chief reason why ISTEP had grown so long.

“I don’t want to make this personal,” Pence said. “But look, the department of education is completely responsible for crafting the test and conducting the test in the state of Indiana. That is their responsibility.”

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education responded to Gov. Mike Pence’s call for shorter ISTEP exams, saying the longer testing-time arose from Indiana’s new academ-ic standards.

Pence last year called for “uncommonly high standards” when the State Board of Education drafted new state standards to replace the national Common Core standards, said education department press secretary Daniel Altman.

Altman said Indiana’s new ISTEP+ test is more rigorous as a result of the state’s tougher standards and therefore it takes more time for students to complete it.

Experts took testing fatigue into consideration when building the exam, and schools have options for their testing schedules. For example, they can give two shorter sections one day, followed by one different section the next, Altman said.

The revamped test was designed to test how well students are being prepared for college and their careers in their elementary and middle school classes. Their scores will be used by the department of education to grade students’ schools, and the results will also factor into teachers’ annual evaluations, which affect whether they receive raises.

“It’s disappointing to see that the governor is, again, trying to work around rather than with the superintendent,” Altman said. “That’s been a habit for his administration, and it’s really disappointing to see.”

Tom Lange is a staff writer for the Daily Journal of Johnson County, a sister publication of The Republic. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.