Indiana Drops Standardized Tests for 1st, 11th Graders

By Deborah L. Cohen — May 22, 1991 2 min read
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Indiana 1st and 11th graders will no longer be included in the state’s standardized-testing program, as the result of legislation signed this month by Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

The move to drop the 11th-grade test has drawn sharp criticism, however, from the architect of the program, Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans.

In a letter to Mr. Bayh urging him not to sign the bill, Mr. Evans said it would “virtually halt accountability at the high-school level.’'

The Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress program, known as istep, was approved in 1987 as part of a sweeping education-reform plan backed by Mr. Evans. (See Education Week, April 13, 1988.)

Under the program, which until recently tested students in grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, and 11, pupils between the 1st and 8th grades who score below acceptable levels can be required to take summer remedial courses.

Lawmakers who favored waiving the tests for grades 1 and 11 argued that 1st graders were too young to be judged on the basis of a standardized test, while 11th graders did not take it seriously because there was no remediation requirement.

The state education department has supported changing the test for 1st graders from a pencil-and-paper to an observation-based assessment.

But Mr. Evans and the state school board strongly opposed eliminating the 11th-grade istep test, which they argued was a critical tool in evaluating schools under the state’s performance-based accreditation and awards programs.

The original bill, sponsored by Senator Jean Leising, would have dropped only the 1st-grade istep test. The measure was later amended, however, to cover the 11th grade as well.

Ms. Leising said she was “not personally thrilled with repealing the 11th-grade [test] without replacing it with something else.”

But she said she was unable to garner support for a proposal to institute a 10th-grade test and to add a remedial component.

The bill passed both the House and the Senate by 2-to-1 margins. The strong bipartisan support sent “a clear message ... that the 1st- and 11th-grade istep tests had not achieved the acceptance they needed,’ said David Dawson, a spokesman for Mr. Bayh.

Mr. Bayh’s approval “does not mean that he does not believe in assessing achievement,” Mr. Dawson said. He noted that the Governor has proposed mandatory assessments for high-school seniors as part of a broader plan to bolster workforce preparation.

A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 1991 edition of Education Week as Indiana Drops Standardized Tests for 1st, 11th Graders


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