Should Hoosiers support Glenda Ritz’s plans for ISTEP?

February 17, 2015 6 Comments

Following public outrage over the new ISTEP, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), in consultation with testing experts, offered a plan to the Indiana State Board of Education (ISBOE) to cut the testing time by three hours, from over twelve to around nine hours.

State Board of Education member Andrea Neal supported the time-cutting measures for this year, but cautioned fellow Board members against “accepting as normal an 8 to 9 hour test,” and asked the department to keep future testing times down to four or five hours. Michelle Walker, the chief assessment officer for the IDOE, responded by stating that the ISTEP test must comply with the state’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver requirement to administer a “college and career ready” assessment and, therefore, future ISTEP tests would have to be longer than our old tests, although she didn’t specify how much longer.

However, if Indiana’s future state assessments must be similar to other federally approved “college and career ready” assessments, such as PARCC and Smarter Balanced which are between 9 to 10 hours long, we can count on it being at least double in length from past state tests.  Unfortunately, as long as the IDOE remains committed to the federal government’s requirement for a “college and career ready” assessment,  future ISTEP tests will remain unbearably long.

While Superintendent Ritz and the IDOE patted themselves on the back for cutting the test time, they failed to address other concerns raised in testimony before the State Board of Education. Parents, teachers, and principals who had examined the sample tests raised major concerns, not just about the length of the ISTEP, but also about the design of the test questions, which they found required the use of  technology that is “designed to confuse”  and convoluted reading passages that a principal with 40 years of experience and two post-graduate degrees stated he “had to read the third grade problem three times to understand what it was asking.”

Nonetheless, Superintendent Ritz and the IDOE ignored these issues and seemed untouched by the negative consequences for children who will walk away from these tests feeling they aren’t capable, when, in reality, the test itself is flawed. So far, the only concern Ritz has made public regarding the validity of the test, is in regards to tying student test scores to teacher accountability measures, and she called for the state to omit students’ scores from teacher evaluations. While that seems reasonable considering the mess we are in, what about the children? Is she unmoved by the fact that children as young as 9 years old will have to sit for a test longer than the bar exam only to walk away with a score that says they failed?

Indiana needs to ask the question: Is the ISTEP the best assessment to measure schools, teachers and students? If that answer is No, then alternate paths which offer flexibility to schools while  maintaining accountability to parents and taxpayers need to be pursued before we wind up with the same problems next year.


Comments (6)

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  1. Dan says:

    Will a child be held back if they refuse the test.

  2. Linda Dudine says:

    I have been reading that Common Core is actually a ‘tracking’ mechanism. Do we want our children ‘tracked’ throughout their education into adult life? What are the pros and cons?

  3. bobmontgomery says:

    It is child abuse and everybody knows it is child abuse, including, probably, Glenda Ritz. That’s why parents are able to opt out because if it was mandatory, the door would be wide open for civil lawsuits and damage to the children. The part about longer than the bar examine ought to open anybody’s eyes who isn’t already awake. When people take the bar exam, not only are they already adults, but they are genuinely “college and career ready” because they are there. Third-graders aren’t college and career ready and they won’t be college and career ready when they are eighth graders and forced to take the tests again, and they may not be when they are eleventh-graders.
    What part of the progression through the grades cannot be used to prep people for college or careers just as it has done since the inception of public education more than 150 years ago and produced the greatest country and the greatest achievements in the history of mankind? Teachers have been giving their own math tests and English tests for decades and decades and they are the ones closest to their students, so they know if they are “ready” or not.
    If the teachers unions weren’t in bed with the crony communists and the crony capitalists and the Ivy League/Beltway cabal wasn’t working overtime to keep the teachers on the reservation, this mess wouldn’t have gotten this far. That plus a clueless bunch of Republican chief executives smitten by the “accountability” bug.
    Get rid of environmentalism, climatological chicanery and multicultural fol de rol, along with faux “social studies” curriculums and teach the 3 R’s.
    The children will sort themselves out and America will be better for it.

  4. Tom Bozikis says:

    On another note… I don’t understand why Indiana is spending more money on education while the product being delivered is of a substandard quality. We spend more dollars with the result that our students aren’t receiving a quality education. When will we wake up to the fact that money isn’t the answer. The result of compulsory education has failed, and a different model needs to be established. I hope we can rid ourselves of the idea of a one-size-fits-all approach to education, and that it isn’t in the purview of the federal government to mandate standards or structure for education. Haven’t we learned that centralized planning doesn’t work and ultimately can’t work?

  5. Mel Jensen says:

    Hi, I also had a question. If a child don’t pass the test will they be held back? The teachers have been saying this.

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