Indiana education issues more than ISTEP scores

Recently an article published in The Tribune discussed an important issue that is on a lot of people’s minds, and that is the amount of ISTEP testing currently happening in our schools.

While this article highlighted some issues, it left some unanswered questions as well.

The federal No Child Left Behind act was a behemoth law that held tremendous sway over the states regarding its education policies. Indiana applied for a waiver from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind act from the U.S. secretary of education, and to receive this waiver, our state agreed to administer a “college and career ready assessment” by the 2014-2015 school year and tie teacher evaluations to students’ results.

As Indiana had opted out of Common Core, it designed its own rigorous college and career ready standards, therefore, necessitating a test to conform to our own new, unique standards.

The testing company, CTB/McGraw-Hill, was chosen to administer these tests but has had several issues in administering the tests, and their troubles are well documented.

Joining in the frustration with the thousands of Hoosier students, parents and teachers, the Indiana General Assembly has made this issue one of its highest priorities in its current session.

Our students, parents and the thousands of excellent men and women who dedicate their lives to teaching deserve answers and common sense solutions to this issue. With the just recent elimination of the No Child Left Behind act, and the federal requirements that went with it, we are now presented with exciting and unique opportunities.

As we are deservedly hearing about the bad aspects of what went wrong, there have been many positive accomplishments that deserve to be recognized. Indiana has made excellent strides recently in education thanks to the continued commitment of our teachers and newly implemented reform measures. Our state has seen positive increases in the measurable areas of graduation rates, IREAD and ISTEP scores.

Seymour and Brownstown school corporations both received an A rating last year, and this is a first time in 10 years for Seymour and only the second time in as many years for Brownstown.

These improvements are great news and should be celebrated.

The article raised an issue about the cost of testing and the time allocated for it. Although $24 million is a lot of money, put in perspective to the almost $8 billion Hoosiers spend each year along with the revenue of more than 40 percent of our property tax dollars to go to educate approximately 1 million children, we have an obligation and duty to the taxpayer to assess what works and what doesn’t work.

Just this past session, another $470 million was committed to education, including $70 million in teacher merit pay. Coupled with what we spend on higher education, Indiana devotes a greater portion of its budget to education than any other state, and this level of investment demonstrates our dedication to a quality education.

Are there issues within our education system? Absolutely. However, with an agency that is as enormous as our education department, there are bound to be issues.

The key is to identify and properly deal with them.

As a member of the House Education Committee, I am greatly pleased the Indiana General Assembly has again made our children and teachers a top priority this session, and I’m looking forward to taking a common sense approach to these challenges.

State Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour represents House District 69, which includes part of Brownstown and all of Hamilton, Jackson, Redding, Vernon and Washington townships in Jackson County. He can be reached at 800-382-9841or