Today is the day when dramatically lower ISTEP+ test scores could become a reality. Maybe that helps explain Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s surprising about-face on whether to pause accountability for schools and teachers based on spring 2015 test results.
As Shaina Cavazos with Chalkbeat Indiana documents, Pence had refused to consider a pause for over a year, even though Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz suggested the idea several times. In February, the Pence-appointed State Board of Education wouldn’t even discuss the topic.
U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan invited states to request a break from test-based school grades and teacher ratings when they shifted to new standards with tougher assessments. Many states jumped at the idea, but Pence and Indiana Republican legislative leaders insisted it wasn’t on the table.
Monday, Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, offered two accountability-pause proposals to the Interim Study Commission on Education, which suggests ideas for the legislature to consider in 2016. Both were rejected on near party-line votes (with one GOP cross-over, Rep. Tony Cook of Cicero).
But Pence announced Tuesday he’d had a change of heart. In a letter to Ritz and other State Board of Education members, he said he is working with lawmakers to develop legislation that will ensure teachers and schools aren’t punished as a result of the drop in test results.
The state board will meet today, and on its agenda is the setting of “cut scores” that determine how many students get credit for passing the ISTEP+ exams taken in the spring. (The board delayed voting two weeks ago but now state testing consultant Derek Briggs has weighed in with a report that largely supports the validity of the scores).
The recommended cut scores would reduce the number of students who pass by 16 percentage in English/language arts and by 24 percentage points in mathematics. According to the Indiana Department of Education, that could result in over half of Indiana schools getting Ds or Fs under the state accountability system. In 2014, only 12.8 percent of schools got Ds or Fs.