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Ability to opt out of ISTEP+ varies across the state

OAKVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — As schools across Indiana ramp up for ISTEP+ testing next week, the response from school corporations across the state varies when it comes to parents who want their children to opt out.

There is no opt-out law that governs the entire state of Indiana when it comes to ISTEP+, meaning it’s left to the individual school corporations to decide what to do if parents don’t want their children to fall in line.

“This has nothing to do with a child’s grade,” Debora Harty, an Oakville mother, said. “This goes toward the funding of the schools and toward the teachers, and it’s not fair to put these children through these long hours of testing which doesn’t come back to prove anything for them.”

When Harty attempted to opt her son out of the standardized test, she was met with a letter from the Cowan Community School Corporation, saying any attempt to opt out amounts to insubordination, making the student subject to discipline.

Further, students who skip school on testing days will be handed unexcused absences, which can also lead to punishment.

“I cannot see putting our child, our son through this,” Harty said, wanting to do what another mother did instead.

In Lafayette, a mother called her son’s school earlier this week to opt him out of ISTEP+. That school told her he could be in school, but not take the test.

“I think the only way we can get across to our representatives this needs to change is to start taking some sort of action,” Kirsten Maloney told our sister station WLFI.

For these parents who want to opt out, they say they want to see a state policy that would allow students to avoid taking the test, and use the time for other things.

“Their time could be catching up on all the missed winter days, maybe, going back and going over more things they have already done this year,” Harty said.

There are high stakes for school corporations and teachers in making sure students take the test and do well. Districts and the state as a whole must meet a 95 percent threshold of students taking the test or jeopardize federal funding. Districts are also graded A to F based on the test, and failure to meet the 95 percent threshold costs them at least one letter grade. Teacher pay is also based on ISTEP+ performance.