Indiana lawmakers move one more step to replacing ISTEP

Legislators have reached a tentative deal on replacing the embattled ISTEP exam.

Both parties have endorsed getting rid of ISTEP in favor of something shorter and cheaper — the debate has been over the makeup of a panel to study the alternatives. House Education Chairman Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) says he’s agreed with Senate counterpart Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) on a committee of educators, with three seats reserved for a parent, a business leader and a State Board of Education member. Behning says the deal also expands the panel’s mission, to study not only what the new test should be, but how it should be used in issuing school accountability grades and setting teacher salaries.

Legislators voted early in this year’s session to shield schools and teachers from being penalized for score drops on the 2015 ISTEP, after a transition to new state standards produced sharp declines statewide. The bill rejects state school superintendent Glenda Ritz’s call to make her the chair of the panel — it lets Governor Pence appoint the chair instead.

Democrats are still reviewing the deal. If they object, majority Republicans can either return to the drawing board or replace them on the negotiating panel to get the bill done.