The concerns and distress caused by the 2013, 2014, and most recently the 2015 ISTEP testing have been well documented by local media throughout the state of Indiana thanks to the care and concern of Indiana Public School Superintendents. Indiana Superintendents hold in high regard the welfare of their students, staff, and school communities, and as such continue to communicate with the public outlining the issues with the current system of student assessment in place in Indiana schools:
- students not being able to complete the test on line due to connectivity issues with the vendor,
- extraordinary delays between the time the tests were taken and the results delivered,
- the apparent disconnect between the on line versions of the test and the paper/pencil versions,
- known errors in the scoring of the student tests,
- the incomprehensible length of the entire testing program.
These are but a few reasons why school personnel and the public have no faith in the testing results. Compounding this travesty, schools, districts, teachers, and principals are evaluated based on these results and teachers and administrators are paid in part based on these unreliable test results. Indiana students deserve better.
Schools and school districts are also “graded” based on the results of ISTEP testing. For example, in 2014, 44.2 percent of the schools in 25 districts received grades of “A”. Preliminary analysis of testing results in 2015, indicate the percentage of schools receiving an “A” would drop to 14.5 percent. Moreover, 6.2 percent of the schools in this area received a “D” or “F” in 2014 and that would increase to 37.3 percent in 2015. What business would be interested in moving their operations to Indiana when so many more schools are considered ‘failing?” Indiana citizens deserve better.
Indiana school superintendents do not believe one test should be used to measure student learning or the quality of teaching in Indiana public schools. Nor should one test based on a flawed metric be used to gauge a community and assign a “letter grade”. Superintendents across the state have offered suggestions of a more broad accountability model that measures progress over time. Indiana’s current model of constantly changing targets leaves little hope for longitudinal reflection. Indiana schools deserve better.
Ironically, the ISTEP testing fiasco with its unreliable reported results come at the same time that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “nation’s report card” are released. With NAEP results since 1992 reported, the 2015 results reveal that Indiana is the best ever. Indiana teachers deserve a pat on the back.
Last week the United States Congress passed new education legislation that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that allowed the federal government to intervene and provide oversight for education in all states. The reauthorization now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) returns education oversight to the states and precludes many of the issues that have caused so much heartache and confusion for public education and educators for the last 15 years. We have a chance to get it right for Indiana schools and Indiana educators, but more importantly for Indiana children. It’s time for a better way for Indiana schools and Indiana school aged children. Indiana deserves this chance.
J. T. Coopman, Ed. D.
Executive Director, IAPSS