Despite a period of turbulence and constant change, students and staff at Warsaw Community Schools have nearly completed the first section of the ISTEP+ test. According to Chief Accountability Officer Dani Barkey, though the first part of the test is successfully coming to a close this week, many changes at the state level have created a constant flux in approach to the test.
ISTEP+ has seen its share of controversy over the past few years. Testing for Indiana students will dramatically change over the next year and beyond. According to Barkey, major changes can be condensed into four main points: practice test changes; testing window extensions; decreased testing time; and additional accountability changes for the ECA.
Practice Test Changes
In an effort to shorten test times amid protesting of the originally proposed 12.5 hour test, the IDOE removed the practice test previously attached to the testing window to an optional instructional tool.
According to Barkey, the IDOE encouraged this portion of the test to be taken in pairs or small groups to identify challenging aspects of the test and outline steps to solve problems. Teachers were encouraged to create their own instructional methods and activities for utilizing the practice test but were not required to waste valuable instructional time in the process.
Testing Window Extensions
Amid the controversy surrounding test times, the IDOE opted to add an additional five days to the testing window during the 2014-2015 ISTEP+. The ISTEP+ testing window was expanded to Feb. 25 to March 13.
Though these five days could have proved valuable for relieving testing stress on teachers and students, according to Barkey, by attaching the additional five days at the beginning of the testing window, teachers and students lost five days of preparation time for the high-stakes ISTEP+.
The IREAD-3 also saw an addition of two days with the testing window now occurring from March 12 to March 18. This created an overlap with the ISTEP+ window.
Decrease in ISTEP+ Testing Time
Barkey noted that the first component of the plan reduced ISTEP+ test time by three hours and five minutes for all students. The second component potentially reduced testing time for students in grades 5 and 7 by one hour and 45 minutes by suspending social studies testing. Schools were allowed to opt into the social studies test, however WCS chose not to.
One major challenge and change was the incorporation of not one test form, but two distributed through the corporation. Barkey noted that one required component of the test design piloted items for use in the 2016 test, with 32 percent of test items serving as pilot items in the 2015 test. Schools were only required to administer half of the sessions in part one mathematics and English language arts. This change saved three hours and five minutes of testing time at all grade levels.
Additional Accountability Changes
Students in eighth grade algebra I will no longer be required by the state to participate in the algebra ECA test nor will it be used to calculate school accountability. The decision is now a local decision, one that WCS will opt into. The test allows data for placement purposes, alignment with high school course expectations, teacher performance. Because a new accountability model has not been determined, the corporation can not effectively prepare for future expectations at the state level.
[see related: Concerns About Taking ISTEP+ Online]