INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Board of Education today is expected to consider extending the window for administering the Indiana Statewide testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) tests next month.
Yet another overnight winter storm expected to dump 6 to 10 inches of snow on central Indiana before ending sometime today served as an explanation point of why an extension is needed, Madison County school officials said.
“There’s been some scuttlebutt they would do that,” said Anderson Community Schools Interim Superintendent Tim Edsell. “I think that would be a great idea. It will give our teachers and students some more time to prepare for this high-stakes testing. I hope they do it.”
State officials set a window of 10 school days when local schools must administer the applied skills part of the ISTEP tests. This year, that window was scheduled for March 3 to 12. The IREAD-3 test window, scheduled for March 17 to 19, would also be extended.
In a letter to the state board, Office of Student Assessment Director Michelle Walker said an extension is necessary because of “unprecedented weather-related school delays and closings.”
Walker’s proposal would extend the window by five, six or seven days. The board will make a decision from those options.
Many regional school districts took advantage of a waiver offered by Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz to trim the official number of school days to 178 from 180, to help make up for a whole week of closed schools in the first week of January.
Continuing rounds of closings and two-hour delays caused by ongoing bad weather since then have put administrators through an almost daily scramble to adjust calendars and accommodate truncated instruction time.
So the acknowledgment that state school officials are sensitive to that loss of instruction time is “welcome news,” said Frankton-Lapel Schools Superintendent Bobby Fields. If the state board moves back or expands the window “we’d take advantage of the additional time the state’s going to give us.”
Anderson Preparatory Academy Commandant Robert Guillaume agreed that any delay or expansion of ISTEP testing would be “wise” given this year’s harsh cold and snow. “All schools have experienced disruption to their educational process and there could be more variances to school days yet ahead of us.”
Rich Hull, principal of Liberty Christian Elementary School, said he wasn’t aware state education officials were considering an expanded testing window but agreed it would be welcomed, and the school’s calendar would be able to accommodate the change.
“Our last day before spring break is March 28, so we wouldn’t have any difficulty” with a longer ISTEP schedule, Hull said. “I think if it were something actually voted on and offered, it’s something we would definitely consider.”
So far, local school officials said they plan making up days lost because of snow at the end of the school year and eliminating select scheduled holidays. But if winter losses continue to mount, more innovative tactics could be used to make up the time — like Saturday classes.
“We have done that once before, so it’s not something that’s unheard of,” Fields said. “But there are no plans to do that right now.”
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