As districts continue to close schools following relentlessly cold weather and snow, they also are looking at how to make up those days and whether the ISTEP+ test will be pushed back.
With the exception of the statewide waivers granted to any schools that requested them for Jan. 6 and 7 when schools were closed because of the weather, waiver requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis, said Indiana Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman. With respect to ISTEP, that is one of the items on the agenda for Thursday's State Board of Education meeting, he said.
Altman said any waiver request will be looked at, rather than making a determination before a school district makes a request.
Hebron Superintendent George Letz said in the past, that was standard procedure; requests for waivers due to weather were always done after the district requested them. What the IDOE did for Jan. 6 and 7 is unusual.
Now, each district will complete the waiver form, and IDOE will make a ruling, Letz said.
"In 1987, the state mandated 180 days (under previous Gov. Orr) of school, and taxes were raised by the state to pay for the extra days, which for most districts was five more days of school. Some districts in Indiana were in school fewer days than 175," he said.
"At this time, we need to be aware of the instructional time lost and how to make that time up, not just because of ISTEP-Plus but simply to be sure our students are achieving mastery of the standards or benchmarks of their courses in grades K through 12, so waivers may not be the highest priority. We have made up one day already and have two more days scheduled in our calendar before we need to use days at the end of the school term in June."
Letz said he supports extending the window to prepare students for the ISTEP+ test.
Right now, the first phase of ISTEP+, which is the Applied Skills Phase, is March 3-12. The testing window could be extended to late March, just before most schools take spring break. The second phase of ISTEP+, the multiple choice assessment, begins April 28.
Highland Superintendent Brian Smith said ISTEP is such a high-stakes test, school leaders are concerned about students not getting the level of instruction they need.
"I'll be watching that (IDOE) meeting on podcast. We're anxious to see what happens. I know that (state Superintendent) Glenda Ritz has said she supports pushing the test back a week," he said.
Smith said students have missed six days due to snow. The district received approval for waivers for Jan. 6 and 7. It has built-in snow days and will use Feb. 14 and 17 to make up days. The other day up for consideration for a make-up day is Good Friday, April 18, and Smith said that has to be discussed with teacher union leaders.
"We're done with school early this year on May 23," he said. "So for us, tacking days on at the end won't be bad, but the problem is that kids may not come after Memorial Day. Attendance will be terrible. The question will be, can we get another waiver? Hopefully, but you just don't know."