Behning: Replacing ISTEP with a new, more efficient assessment

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, January 27, 2017 9:11 am

Last year, the General Assembly created a 23-member panel, comprised mostly of educators, to take a serious look at Indiana’s current statewide assessment: ISTEP. The panel met multiple times throughout the summer and fall to study and discuss potential replacement tests. In December, the panel issued recommendations to the General Assembly. I served on the panel, and as we considered a potential new test, we demanded that it align with Indiana standards, inform instruction and maintain accountability. This session, I authored legislation to continue with the replacement of ISTEP. The bill includes guidelines and the flexibility necessary for the State Board of Education and the Department of Education to accomplish the panel’s recommendations.

There is no question that changes need to be made to the ISTEP. In fact, last year, I authored a law that repealed the flawed exam. The last few years have been filled with unacceptable computer and software glitches that inconvenienced students and teachers. There were even discrepancies between paper and online versions of the test, causing potential inaccurate scores and lengthy rescores. All of this led to delays in releasing scores and growing concern over the reliability. By early 2016, it became abundantly clear that ISTEP was not the best tool to measure student proficiency and growth.

Under my proposal this year, I-LEARN, or Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network, would replace ISTEP by 2018. This timeline allows us to consult testing and education experts to ensure that the transition to the new exam will be as smooth as possible. If passed, I-LEARN would be student-centered, while providing meaningful information about students’ proficiency levels and their growth toward Indiana’s rigorous college- and career-ready standards. With strict and clear guidelines for the testing vendor, the new assessment would be reliable, accurate, user-friendly and timely. Moreover, I-LEARN will allow nearly a full school year of teaching before being administered during a single testing window during the month of May. With a much faster turnaround in grading, students, parents and teachers will not have to wait several months for outdated information. I-LEARN scores, unlike ISTEP, will better inform instruction to fit the needs of individual students. 

There will be a lot of discussion surrounding I-LEARN throughout the session as lawmakers have the opportunity to provide their own input. I want to know your thoughts on this legislation and others that may come before the General Assembly. Please contact me with any questions or concerns at 317-232-9643 or


State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Behning serves as the chair of the House Committee on Education.

A high-resolution photo of Behning can be downloaded by clicking here.