Local educators reacting with mix of relief and apprehension aft - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Local educators reacting with mix of relief and apprehension after decision to ditch ISTEP

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Indiana has hit the reset button on its problem-plagued ISTEP test.

Local educators say they are responding with a mixture of relief and apprehension. While not surprised, teachers say they are concerned about what the state is going to do next, based on the failed rollout of its current exam.

Sophomores at Silver Creek High Schools will be one of the last two classes to take the ISTEP exam.

The test is supposed to measure what the students know, and it's directly tied to high school graduation. It's been riddled with technical glitches, scoring problems and questions about accuracy.

The problems started in 2014 when Indiana did away with Common Core, wrote new standards in math and English and came up with a new ISTEP exam. Nearly $30 million from taxpayers went to overhauling the system, and half the students in the state failed the new test.

Under intense political pressure and an outcry from teachers, Gov. Mike Pence signed a law yesterday effectively ditching ISTEP in the 2017-18 school year. He will appoint a 23-member panel to study testing alternatives: new ways to measure what students are learning.

Mike Crabtree, the principal at Silver Creek High School, says he hopes the state has learned from its mistakes.

"We want a test that people are going to have confidence in, and that we know is reliable, and one that will give us a good benchmark and trend data that will tell us how we're doing in certain features of our teaching," Crabtree said.

"I'm hopeful we get a system we can rely on and understand, and also one that parents understand, and know if we're doing a good job or not," Crabtree added.

If it's the talk of the playground, you know it must be a big deal. Third grader Cayden Galvan was quick to respond to the news that ISTEP would be going away.

"YES!" Cayden said.

But the third grader's mother won't rejoice just yet. She's less confident in yet another change in her child's education. 

"Of course they're going to replace it with something else, so is that going to be better or worse?" asked Amy Galvan, Cayden's mother. 

What Amy Galvan and other parents understand is that change is expensive -- particularly when you bring up that $30 million price tag.

"That's a lot of money wasted," said Christina Smith, another parent, and taxpayer.  

Greater Clark Superintendent Andy Melin says if asked, he'd serve on Pence's panel -- and already has ideas for sweeping reforms. 

"I'm thankful the reset button has been hit," Melin said. "I think we need to make sure that we have a test that is no more than four hours in length."

"Removing science and social studies from that testing, to me, is important," he added. "We need to focus on reading, writing and math skills. We need to focus on those areas."

The education of 500,000 students in Indiana is at stake -- and students like 8-year-old Cayden hope Indiana won't repeat its history.

"It was kind of hard and I don't like it," Cayden said.

Half a million children in Indiana take the ISTEP exam. It's administered in grades 3rd grade - 8th grade, as well as 10th grade, and tied to high school graduation and teachers' incentive pay.

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