Letter: ISTEP was only test meeting requirements

To the editor:

Once again, I must respond to yet another article full of misinformation. Robin Ramp recently addressed some education issues and I would like to present the actual facts. Ms. Ramp wrote that Indiana had testing options other than ISTEP.

ISTEP was the only test that met the two federal requirements of being a summative test and aligning with our state standards. The tests Ms. Ramp mentioned, the Iowa Basic Test and PARCC, did not meet both these criteria. The Iowa Basic Test does not align with our state standards, and since Indiana had opted out of Common Core, this eliminated the PARCC option.

With the federal requirements now eliminated by the replacement of No Child Left Behind with the more state-friendly Every Student Succeeds Act, we now have a great opportunity to move past the much despised federally-mandated standardized testing.

Yes, we did require that social studies be assessed. As an elected representative, I fail to see how an assessment of students is a bad thing after devoting over $10 billion and 1,000 curriculum hours each year to their education. Testing time was approximately 1 percent of the yearly curriculum time and the cost of $54 to test per student is about .5% of the approximate $10,000 spent on average per student.

Ms. Ramp mocked Senate Bill 9. SB9 simply eliminated duplicative reporting of required information by charter schools to the Department of Education. The Department of Education supported and even testified in favor of SB9. Bills like this, which Ms. Ramp attacks, eliminate redundancy and save taxpayers dollars.

Ms. Ramp made an issue of vouchers and charter schools. Statewide, vouchers and charters combined received less than 3% the funding of what public education receives. Recent state numbers show 5 Jackson County schools receiving $799,935.09 for 295 voucher students and 1 Jennings County school receiving $183,510.85 for 69 students.

This averages out to about $2,700 per student, significantly well below the approximately $10,000 per student that public schools receive. The 33,000 statewide voucher students are less than half of the 74,000 students in the public school choice program called Open Enrollment.

Charter schools are public schools, yet operate with greater flexibility in their teaching and are actually held to a higher standard than public schools. By law, if a charter school receives an F rating 2 years in a row, they are subject to state intervention, whereas public schools get 4 years of straight F’s before state intervention.

Charters are predominately found in inner cities and some have shown signs of challenge, with many due to receiving inner city students coming from public school systems who are several grades behind. However, due to increased demand in school choice by parents, charters are opening up that encompass all grade levels and offer divergent curriculum. Such a school, Seven Oaks Academy opening in Bloomington, is a K-12 public charter school dedicated to a classical liberal arts education.

I fully support public education and with the new opportunities possible due to No Child Left Behind being abolished, I look forward to providing public schools more freedom to teach.

I also fully support educators at our local private schools, homeschoolers and organizations like the Seven Oaks Academy, who present parents a choice in their child’s education. Instead of fear-mongering and promoting an us vs. them mentality, I support an educational approach that encourages parental involvement and teacher freedom, with an emphasis on the child’s education.

State Rep. Jim Lucas

R-Seymour

Lucas is running for re-election, seeking the GOP nomination in the May 3 primary.