This week, numerous school corporation superintendents have spoken out over an age-old test utilized to not only measure elementary, middle school and early high school student’s growth and achievement, but to determine the effectiveness of a corporation’s teaching staff.
The past few years have been incredibly rocky ones for CTB-McGraw Hill, the company responsible for issuing the state standardized test. Students in third grade to ninth grade experienced technical difficulties across the state in 2013 when the company attempted to take test taking off of student’s desks and onto the internet. These disruptions led to numerous corporations claiming test results were negatively affected.
However complaints regarding the testing system are not new and did not cease following 2013’s issues. Teachers and administrators across the state have questioned the test as a means to determining teacher bonuses and school accountability letter grades. Among issues noted in regards to ISTEP is that of growth measurement, which only awards points if a student’s score drastically changes, penalizing already high scoring schools that maintain excellence. In addition, many teachers have noted the stress placed on students and staff to achieve results in testing have all but diminished actual learning to simply “teaching to a test.” [See related: Why ISTEP Is Sucking The Joy Out Of Teaching]
This week, administrators across the region united to prepare unanimous statements in regards to this year’s test results, which have been held for months as legislators attempt to determine the validity and importance of the 2015 test. The test, which saw dramatic and sudden changes, left administrators, teachers and students scrambling to keep up with changes rapidly.
The following letter was supplied by area administrators on Tuesday, Dec. 1:
As the superintendents of schools for four districts based in Kosciusko County, we would like to express our concerns about the results of the 2014-2015 ISTEP test results released to schools last week. We believe the data to be an inaccurate reflection of our students’ academic accomplishments and the quality of teaching in our classrooms.
The test scores, as predicted by the Indiana Department of Education, show a significant drop in student achievement from the previous year. The test did not accurately measure the students’ attainment. We believe that changes in the testing structure, along with arbitrarily chosen passing scores, are reflecting a false reality for our county and the entire state. The testing process was a mess with students attempting online practice test several times unsuccessfully, which then resulted in paper and pencil tests. Due to testing vendor problems, this inconsistency in testing methods led to great student discouragement and frustration.
Over half of the testing year is over, and we are no closer to receiving pertinent information about student outcomes than before.
The testing information does not justly impact an individual student’s academic record. It has a negative impact on teacher evaluation and compensation, school accountability grades, and the entire image of a local community.
We do not believe that our communities are below standard – we do not believe that one test measures our children – we believe this process to be a flawed attempt to implement a legislative agenda. The political agenda is detrimental to our children, our educational system, and our communities. Reliable and valid tests are available which provide student scores the following day.
Ironically, our messed up ISTEP testing results came out the same month as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The 2015 NAEP testing results for Indiana are the best ever! NAEP testing results are not used as a political tool.
Our children, teachers and administrators deserve a fair and reliable way of determining student proficiency. It’s time for a better way in Indiana.
Mr. Brett Boggs, Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation Superintendent
Dr. Steve Clason, Whitko Community Schools Superintendent
Dr. Thomas Edington, Wawasee Community School Corporation Superintendent
Dr. David Hoffert, Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent