A draft version of a purportedly independent report summarizing an investigation into Indiana’s new state standardized tests showed signs of possible political interference, setting off a war of words among state education leaders.
The changes, made to alter language that reflected poorly on Republicans’ decision to replace an exam based on the Common Core State Standards with the locally developed iSTEP exam, were made by a state administrator hired by Gov. Mike Pence’s state board of education.
In response, John Zody, the chairman of Indiana’s Democratic Party, called for the official, state board of education Executive Director John Snethen, to be fired.
The changes were discovered by the Associated Press, which obtained through a public-records request a Microsoft Word file containing multiple edits and drafts of the report.
The document shows Snethen helped shape the content through 92 deletions, revisions, and coments, raising questions about how independent the investigation into the iSTEP program was. For example, he objected to strong language in an early version that stated: “It is safe to say that the 2015 iSTEP+ program is a work in progress, put in place quickly and without the usual procedures (e.g., field testing) used with most new assessment programs.”
“Why is it safe to say this?” Snethen asked in notes typed into the draft, adding: “This is an example of a statement that could raise concern.” The phrase was not included in the final version of the report.
The changes made by Snethen also suggest the Pence administration is cautious of possible backlash to the new academic standards, which were put in place after Indiana became the first state to withdraw from the common-core standards in 2014.
A spokesman for the state board said that any changes were done for clarity.
Overall, the report found that the test was still a “highly reliable” measure of students’ abilities.
A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 2016 edition of Education Week as Changes to Indiana State Testing Report Draw Ire