Schools chief bristles at state mandates

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Adding ISTEP exams, cutting development, parent sessions irritate Chapman

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

CANNELTON - Cannelton City Schools Superintendent Al Chapman said he has voiced his displeasure about the way ISTEP testing is being handled this year, which he called "unacceptable," and other changes originating at the state level.

He was speaking at a regular school-board meeting April 23, and the second portion of a two-part Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress exam schedule was to start the following week. The state shifted from fall to spring testing this year, and administered the tests during both periods this year to make the transition. Additionally, the spring testing was broken into two parts, with the first part given in March, "in an effort to return results sooner," news releases from the state Education Department reported. The exams will be given only in the spring next year.

Results for the spring tests will be released in August after passing scores are adopted by the state Board of Education, according to a March 4 release.

Results for each year thereafter will be available to students, parents and educators before the end of the school year.

Chapman said he was involved in the first competency testing launched in the state in the 1980s, and said, "it needs to be worked out so we're not working out the calendar for the school year around ISTEP testing."

Chapman said his displeasure is also aimed at a mid-March announcement by Tony Bennett, state public-instruction superintendent, that parent-teacher conferences and half-day "in-services" traditionally scheduled for teachers' professional development will no longer be counted as part of the 180 days' instruction each child is required by law to receive. The policy change came on the heels of requests by schools across the state for guidance on how to deal with high numbers of school days lost to inclement weather.

"I realize it's a transition year, but we have had testing around the calendar," Chapman said. Emphasizing that he was offering his opinion and not the board's position, he said, "we worry about half-day in-services (while) the state has always been preaching to us that staff in-services are important."