END OF AN ERA: New tests to replace ISTEP

COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County Consolidated Schools is preparing for a smooth transition as the state expects the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment to begin in the 2014-15 school year, replacing ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress).Julie Turpin, principal of Mary Raber Elementary School, told the school board Monday she met with teachers over the past two summers to come up with a plan for the students to make a smooth transition.Turpin said 45 states and three territories have adopted the Common Core Curriculum.“So essentially you have a national curriculum,” said Turpin. “In the past, Indiana academic standards have been taught, and ISTEP was the standardized test from the state that measured students mastery of the Indiana Academic standards.”With the new Common Core standards, Turpin said there will be a new assessment of the mastery of those standards, the PARCC assessment.“While the Indiana Academic standards were very rigorous, and recognized nationally as being very rigorous, the Common Core standards are even more rigorous than the ISTEP assessment is now,” said Turpin.According to Turpin the change was brought about by a desire for the state to begin preparing students for college and careers in a global economy.“There is a focus on 21st century skills so there is the emphasis of communication, collaboration, teamwork and technology,” said Turpin.Turpin said students will be slowly moved toward the change.“Last year’s kindergarten teachers began implementing the Common Core standards,” said Turpin. “When they reach the third grade, they will be the first third graders to take the PARCC assessment. If you go with this year’s third grade group, they are still teaching the Indiana Academic Standards because ISTEP is still given when those students are in third grade. When they go to fourth grade, they will still take ISTEP, but in the fifth grade, they will be taking the PARCC assessment.”