Accountability Indiana Testing Vouchers

Indiana: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Exempt Voucher Schools from State Testing

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Today, February 12, the Senate Education Committee voted to exempt voucher schools receiving public money from ISTEP, the state testing program. It was a straight party-line vote, 7-3. The voucher schools may take a test of their own choosing.

Here is a report from Vic Smith, who blogs about education and politics in Indiana:

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #201 – February 12, 2015

Put this bill in the category of “Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse for Public Education”!

Yesterday afternoon (Feb. 11th) the Senate Education Committee heard Senate Bill 470. It would allow private schools receiving vouchers to ignore ISTEP and to take instead “another nationally recognized and norm referenced assessment” of their own choice. The bill instructs the State Board to develop an A-F system just for the voucher schools taking alternate assessments.

Last year, a similar bill was quickly rejected by the committee because of the obvious reduction in accountability for voucher schools if they aren’t held to Indiana’s standards and assessed via ISTEP. This year, the Senate Education Committee passed the bill 7-3 on a party line vote.

Now we see why the State Board in House Bill 1486 wants to eliminate the current ban on using peer comparisons (norm referenced assessments) in the A-F growth metrics. It’s a complicated web they weave.

Governor Pence strongly endorsed the bill via his education policy director Chad Timmerman, who said that private schools should be able to “choose their own test.”

If anyone doubts that Governor Pence and the leaders of the General Assembly and State Board are favoring private schools over public schools in Indiana’s intense competitive marketplace of school choice, this bill should remove all doubts. The voucher program was sold in 2011 by promising that private schools would take ISTEP and would be measured like all public schools using the A-F system. Now just four years later the voucher schools want to change the rules but keep the money.

This bill would give private voucher schools a direct competitive advantage in the marketplace of school choice because they could attract parents who dislike excessive testing. Public schools would also like to reduce the excessive testing that the General Assembly and State Board have mandated, but this bill only relieves testing mandates for private voucher schools. My testimony on this bill is attached.

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