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Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Oct. 5 that Indianas statewide testing program for school children, known as ISTEP, will move from fall to spring.
Said Daniels, The test will be in the spring, the results will be in hand months sooner, the cost to taxpayers will go down, and school will no longer start sooner than it should.
We editorialized in favor of this move a year ago and are pleased to see it for all the reasons Daniels listed.
The cost saving is an unexpected bonus. The State Board of Education has entered into an agreement with CTB-McGraw Hill and Questar Assessment Inc. to provide the new assessment at a cost of $29.5 million per year for the first two years and $28.5 million per year for the following two years. The current cost is $31 million per year.
The new tests will include all the current ones, as well as testing in social studies in grades 4, 6 and 8. That subject has been totally ignored in the current tests.
Smaller diagnostic tests will also be included periodically throughout the school year.
The spring tests are expected to be graded quickly and returned before students leave for summer, so schools can use them to determine which students need extra help in time to place them in summer tutoring programs.
Students who do not need extra help should no longer have to attend school for as much of the summer as they currently do.
Perry County school systems now start school in early to mid-August. The day after Labor Day was long the starting date for the Indiana school year and a change back to that date was still being advocated by then Lt. Gov. John Mutz 20 years ago.
Instead most schools kept pushing their opening to an earlier date so teachers could teach specifically for the ISTEP tests.
So students this year were spending some of the hottest days of the year in school drastically raising the schools air conditioning bills. And area swimming pools were closed on those hot days because most of their patrons and lifeguards were in school.
Starting school later would also help the states tourism industry (in this area it would be a boon to Holiday World), as parents with school-age children would have more time to take family vacations. That was one of the main reasons Mutz was in favor of the later school start, as the lieutenant governor is in charge of promoting tourism in Indiana.
A longer summer vacation could also mean more time for high school students to work at part-time jobs and earn more money for college.
So we hope that a later start to the school year will be a beneficial byproduct of moving ISTEP to spring.
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