News and Tribune

Education/Schools

April 14, 2014

Education board drops an exam for students in grades 3-8 in Indiana

New test assessing how prepared youngsters are for college could be back next year

When students finish taking ISTEP next month, they’ll be through with state-required testing for this school year.

But the number of tests students will have to take next school year still hasn’t been decided.

Third- through eighth-graders were originally going to have to take a new practice exam, called CoreLink, once ISTEP was complete. The new test wouldn’t count for or against schools but would give students and teachers an early glimpse at what a test measuring students’ college and career skills could include. Starting next school year, all schools in the state have to give a test assessing how prepared elementary and middle school students are for college and the workforce, and students will have to take that exam along with ISTEP.

This week, the Indiana State Board of Education decided to drop the new test this semester. School officials don’t know yet whether the state board of education will reschedule the test sometime next fall.

But even without the pilot exam, school officials said they believe their schools will be able to prepare students for the new test coming next spring. And dropping the added test this school year means teachers will have more time to focus on math, language arts and other essential lessons, especially after multiple delays and school closings due to snow.

“Because of the fact that what we might have seen on CoreLink may or may not have been anything like what will finally be put in place, we probably haven’t lost anything,” Greenwood assistant superintendent of learning Rick Ahlgrim said.

The testing schedule for next school year wasn’t always so ambiguous. Originally, this was to be the last year for ISTEP, and next year Indiana students would take a new exam called PARCC, which was designed to measure how well students were mastering what they’d been taught in each grade, as well as how prepared they were for college and their careers. PARCC is one of two exams being given with the Common Core academic standards, which have been adopted by most of the nation.

Earlier this year state lawmakers decided to drop Common Core and PARCC, and since then they’ve been working with the state to decide how to assess students next school year. That means giving ISTEP again, as well as a second test specifically for college and career readiness, next spring. Third-graders will also still have to take IREAD-3, which they have to pass before moving on to fourth grade reading lessons.

The state’s college and career readiness test hasn’t been written yet, since officials first need to finish writing Indiana’s new academic standards. Those are expected to be announced later this spring.

CoreLink might have given students an idea of the kinds of questions that could be on the new test next spring, but there’s also no guarantee the questions would be similar to next year’s college and career readiness exam. Teachers can also use other assessments to start reviewing the kinds of questions students could be asked, Ahlgrim and Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.

“There’s still so much left to be determined about what will finally be implemented,” Ahlgrim said.

School officials also worried that giving CoreLink this semester, after ISTEP and IREAD-3, was too much testing for students.

“You don’t put kids through that when they’re already having to take so many tests,” Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson interim superintendent Becky Courtney-Knight said.

One less test this spring now means teachers and students can return to their normal routines.

Schools can open their computer labs, which are typically full throughout all of testing season, for classes to use. Teachers, who had to cut lessons short or make changes earlier this semester because of cancellations from harsh winter weather, will also have extra days to work with students before they leave for the summer, Ahlgrim and Courtney-Knight said.

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