SUPERINTENDENT’S CORNER: Spring ISTEP testing season began last week

By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist

Beginning Feb. 27, the majority of our students in Brown County Schools will be busy sharpening their No. 2 pencils for Part 1 of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) assessment.

This assessment measures student achievement in the subject areas of English/language arts (Grades 3-8 and 10), mathematics (Grades 3-8 and 10), science (Grades 4, 6 and 10) and social studies (Grades 5 and 7).

The Part 1 assessment window is Feb. 27 to March 10. Most students will be completed with their assessments during the first week of testing; however, there will be make-up administrations taking place during the second week.

The Part 1 assessment is known as the “applied skills” (open-ended) portion of the test. Students are asked to answer questions in a “constructed response,” “extended response” and “writing prompt” format. Items vary by subject area.

The Part 2 assessment window is April 17 to May 5. The Part 2 assessment is the multiple choice portion that also includes “technology-enhanced” items.

Students in Indiana are expected to take the Part 2 assessment online. We have been working very hard to ensure that our technology is functioning appropriately at both our local level and at the state level so that there are no testing irregularities related to the online assessment.

Interestingly, the ISTEP+ assessment is administered by a company called Pearson and the Indiana Department of Education’s contract with Pearson is scheduled to end after the administration of this year’s assessment.

Currently, the legislators have not issued a decision regarding what the next assessment will be for the boys and girls in Indiana; however, there has been a House Bill offered (House Bill 1003) that seeks the implementation of a new assessment system called I-LEARN.

I-LEARN stands for Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network. Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, authored the bill and indicated that the test would be administered to students in Grades 3-8 and for students to take an end-of-course assessment at least once in Grades 9-12. He indicated that the test needed to be shorter, have a quicker return and include a single test window.

The legislation allows the State Board of Education to decide if an “off-the-shelf” exam would be purchased for this assessment, or if a uniquely designed test would be created specifically for Indiana.

We are so grateful to our teachers, administrators and parents for working so hard during this school year to prepare our students for this year’s administration of the ISTEP+ examination. As has been widely reported, this assessment has very high stakes for all school districts across the Indiana. We appreciate the commitment our school community has to preparing our students to perform their best during these two test administration windows.

While we wish that we could be busy about the work of high-quality education during these assessment sessions, please know that our commitment to success is strong and we intend to achieve continuous improvement in growth and achievement for students in Brown County Schools.

If you are ever interested in learning more about the current ISTEP+ assessment, the Indiana Department of Education has a comprehensive website that includes sample test items for all tested grade levels located at doe.in.gov/assessment. Sample test items are available for Grades 3-8 and 10.

Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or lhammack@brownco.k12.in.us.