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UPDATED WITH NEW INFORMATION ON COOPERATION BETWEEN GOV. MIKE PENCE & SUPT. GLENDA RITZ. In Day 3 of the ISTEP Crisis, Gov. Mike Pence called another Press Conference and stressed cooperation between himself and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. At the Wednesday Press Conference, carried live on Afternoons with Amos, the Governor stressed the need for collaboration with the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) to shorten the 2015 ISTEP test.Gov. Pence revealed that he had spoken with Supt. Ritz who told him her Department would release all requested information immediately to the consultants brought in, by the Governor, to figure out ways to shorten ISTEP while maintaining the test’s integrity of the test and Indiana’s A-F Accountability System. Supt. Ritz assured Gov. Pence that IDOE would allow the consultants to work directly with CTB/McGraw-Hill, the vendor for the test, help cut down the test’s length. Recommendations could come as early as Friday and be discussed at an emergency State Board of Education meeting. Said the Governor, “Because of the cooperation we’re announcing today, I am confident that in short order, we will have substantive recommendations that will inform the State Board of Education and give the Indiana Department of Education options to significantly reduce the length of this test. I believe with the cooperation that we now have in place, we can significantly shorten this test and lessen the burden it was poised to place on Hoosier kids, on families, and on our teachers.” Supt. Ritz and Gov. Pence also released a letter from CTB/McGraw-Hill with suggestions on how the ISTEP could be shortened, while maintaining quality and integrity. Here’s That Letter:  LETTER ON HOW TO SHORTEN ISTEP FROM CTB/MCGRAW-HILL    Click the Media Player To Hear Gov. Pence’s Press Conference Remarks as Aired Live on Afternoons with Amos. Runs 7 Minutes ©2015 WTLC/Radio One. 

THE HISTORY OF HOW WE GOT TO THIS POINT AND REACTION OF AREA SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT. A day after Gov. Mike Pence ordered that the ISTEP tests scheduled to be given to Indiana 3rd through 8th graders in less than two weeks be shortened continued to anger and confound Hoosier parents, educators and students.  To give the community perspective on the crisis, Afternoons with Amos talked to one of the most experienced education reporters in the state and to one of the 300 Indiana school superintendents coping with the new, harder ISTEP tests and the last minute battle of test timing and methodology.

Scott Elliott, Editor, Chalkbeat Indiana

Scott Elliott, Editor, Chalkbeat Indiana

On Afternoons with Amos veteran education reporter Scott Elliott of Chalkbeat Indiana ( WWW.IN.CHALKBEAT.ORG ) explained for Amos and listeners the how we got to this stage.  Elliott reminded listeners that it was Gov. Mike Pence who wanted Indiana’s education standards changed from Common Core to new, rigorous “Indiana based” standards.  Elliott said those standards weren’t approved until the end of April 2014.  Meanwhile, under No Child Left Behind, the Federal Department of Education insisted that Indiana had to give an ISTEP test this year based on the new standards.  Elliott explained that the test creator CTB/McGraw Hill was including new questions on this year’s ISTEP test, based on the new standards to see if those questions work for future years ISTEP’S.  The addition of extra “test” test questions lengthened the test.  Elliott also explained that the new ISTEP wasn’t just pen and paper but included new computer testing methods to measure students’ ability to think.  All these changes have been stressful for school districts. Dr. Shawn Smith, Superintendent of the Lawrence Township Schools talked with Afternoons with Amos listeners about what districts like his have to go through to prepare for ISTEP.  Dr. Smith explained the process his district and schools do to prepare for ISTEP.  Dr. Smith says Lawrence Township will weather this ISTEP storm, but it will be challenging.  Click the Media Player to Hear the Afternoons with Amos Interviews with Chalkbeat Indiana’s Scott Elliott and Lawrence Township School Superintendent Dr. Shawn Smith.  ©2015 WTLC/Radio One.  Scott Elliott Interview Runs 24 Minutes. Dr. Shawn Smith Interview Runs 11 Minutes.  EARLIER STORY:  The continuing fight between Republicans and Democrats; school reformers and traditionalists; and the Administration of Gov. Mike Pence and he Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) run by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz exploded in anger fueled by genuine outrage over the outrageous lengths of this year’s ISTEP tests in Indiana.  In the past few days media accounts of the length of the ISTEP tests more than doubling this year, from roughly five hour to nearly twelve hours caused a firestorm of anger and concern throughout the state.  Echoing that concern was Gov. Mike Pence who held a rare, hastily called news conference Monday to announce he was taking drastic steps to shorten this year’s ISTEP tests.  Saying he was “stunned and outraged” over the extra long time for these tests, Gov. Pence said he was taking “decisive action to shorten the test” The Governor issued an executive order that would hire a national expert consultant to come into Indiana to advise IDOE how to “substantially shorten” the amount of time to take the test.  2014 IPL 500 Festival Parade - 2014 Indy 500In his news conference, Gov. Pence said experts are convinced that a social studies section and writing section could be cut from the test to help shorten it.  While Pence didn’t mention Supt. Ritz by name, his statement that the crisis was “the byproduct of the dysfunction between IDOE and the Indiana State Board of Education” was the reason for the outrageous length of the test.  However, the issue is more complex than that.  Indiana was under Federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act to adopt more rigorous and difficult education standards for all grades.  In many states those are known as the Common Core Standards.

Those requirements included devising a new standardized assessment test that would measure how well students understood those new standards.  Indiana, however, had its legislature and Governor mandate that the state would create their own version of Common Core.  As a result, the State Board of Education didn’t sign off on new standards under he end of April 2014. IDOE worked with the creator of the ISTEP tests CTB/McGraw-Hill on a new version of ISTEP that would include Indiana’s new standards. That version wasn’t completed until August and teachers didn’t get to see sample questions until the Fall.  Worse, the ISTEP test that begins the end of February includes more questions because since new standards are being tested extra questions were included to measure students’ response and answers to those questions.  Thus the test was substantially lengthened.  And as word got out how much ISTEP was lengthened, Indiana got angry and that was reflected in Gov. Pence’s visible anger and ire towards Ritz and her department.  Click the Media Player to hear Gov. Pence Statement of Actions on the Overly Long ISTEP Tests. Runs 8 Minutes ©2015 WTLC/Radio One.