US Education Secretary responds to Indiana's ISTEP "struggles" - WDRB 41 Louisville News

US Education Secretary responds to Indiana's ISTEP "struggles"

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The state has new standards, new tests and new problems, and Thursday the country's top teacher weighed in on what's negatively impacting Indiana kids the most. 

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited both sides of the river on his back-to-school tour.

Duncan and other local educators are voicing concern over Indiana's testing system."I think Indiana has struggled," Duncan said. "There's been a lot of political dysfunction, a lot of bickering among adults ... And when adults fight, kids lose.

After Indiana dropped common core, wrote new state standards and put out new tests in May ... the results have been delayed. 

Well-documented computer glitches for students taking ISTEP have turned into problems scoring the exams. 

Those results matter. "It will directly affect the way we teach, what we instruct, how we instruct, when we instruct," said Brian Allred, Director of the Renaissance Academy in Clarksville. 

Local educators are growing frustrated by a testing system in flux. 

Superintendent Glenda Ritz has said to expect scores for the 2014-2015 school year to drop. Its the first year of the ISTEP test aligned to Indiana's new education standards for students in 3rd through 8th grade. The state hired a new test maker for 2015-2016, but now there's talk of changing ISTEP again. Parents want it shorter than the 12 hours it took before, and some lawmakers are calling for a less-customized, less-expensive version. 

When asked if he had confidence in Indiana to administer its test Secretary Duncan said, "Well I think this is really up to Indiana to figure out. This is all determined locally. There are lots of states who have done this more smoothly than Indiana." 

But there is still that lingering consideration of pulling federal funding as a way to force Indiana to conform with Common Core.

Ultimately, if we have to do that as a last resort, that's an option on the table," Duncan said. "But not the first preference at all."

People like Allred are seeking an answer sooner rather than later, because along with students scores ... teachers bonuses hang in the balance. 

"We clearly have a desire to be making the difference for our kids and meeting the expectations for our state," he said. "But if we don't have a reliable assessment in place to acknowledge that or measure that ... And that's where we are."

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