INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana legislators were urged Wednesday to disconnect teacher evaluations from students' standardized test results.
The issue was pushed by school administrators during a conference committee of members from both General Assembly chambers discussing House Bill 1003.
The current system has been criticized for basing teacher performance grants on results from the troubled ISTEP+ program, which will be discontinued by mid-2018.
Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, said, "Until we get this whole testing issue settled out, we ought to look at least at a temporary decoupling of the test from teacher evaluation. I don’t see how we can judge a teacher’s performance on a test most of us don’t feel is accountable."
The bill is a critical component in determining how students will be assessed as the state begins implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement program for No Child Left Behind.
House Bill 1003 would replace ISTEP+ after June 30, 2018, with a statewide assessment program, Indiana's Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN). In addition, high schools would be required to administer end-of-course assessments in English 10, biology I and algebra I.
The committee was also urged to favor wording in the bill to give local districts more control over assessments, which is one of the provisions tied into ESSA.
The current version of the bill, coming out of the Senate, allows testing to be developed locally under the approval of the state board of education.
Allowing local control of the assessment system might also prevent teacher evaluations based on faulty test results from the troubled ISTEP+ program, one superintendent said.
“When we are required to implement and incorporate flawed data … that puts us in a really difficult spot administratively,” said Scott Croner, superintendent of Blackford County Schools in Hartford City.
Negotiations on House Bill 1003 are ongoing in the State Legislature.
Committee members also questioned the end result of testing.
“I think we’ve lost sight of what testing is about. What are we trying to test for? What’s our purpose? I think we need to regain what that purpose is,” said Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville.
“When you have testing going on every day, every week, every month, whatever it might be, the value of the test is getting lost. It’s becoming meaningless to a kid,” added McNamara, who is director of the Early College High School in Evansville.