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A high-stakes challenge

The high-stakes reading test all Indiana third-graders took last month is the target of a petition started by a group of Bloomington parents.

"I agree wholeheartedly that a test which fails young children, fails them more deeply in another sense," writes Bloomington resident Jenny Robinson. "As adults, if we let this punitive and useless process continue, we are not meeting our responsibilities to our developing kids."

The petition calls on Indiana lawmakers to tell the Indiana Department of Education to end the iREAD-3 test:

IREAD-3 is a forty-question test that will determine whether public school students in Indiana may advance to fourth grade. It channels education dollars toward redundant assessment, not instruction, and favors retention over remediation; it is therefore a misuse of public funds.

No major decision about a child's future should be made on the basis of a single test score. Retaining students has been shown to increase the risk that they drop out of school and to have a null or negative effect on their academic achievement in the long run.

Like other high-stakes standardized tests, IREAD-3 will disproportionately punish low-income children and families. Indiana students' reading skills are already assessed continually by their teachers as well as through ISTEP+ and NWEA or Acuity. Money allocated for this test directly reduces funds available for remediation. Our tax dollars should go to local schools for literacy programs and teachers rather than to assessment overhead and testing companies.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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