As early as Monday, elementary and middle school students statewide will face Indiana's standardized test – but it won't be ISTEP+.
They will instead demonstrate their smarts through ILEARN, the new online assessment that should, state education officials say, adapt to students' knowledge and produce results quicker.
“It is actually pretty exciting with a lot of new changes to it,” said Adam Baker, Indiana Department of Education spokesman.
ILEARN stands for Indiana's Learning Evaluation Readiness Network.
The test's difficulty will adjust to students' skills, and that will factor into the scoring, Baker said. He said students will be identified as below, approaching, above or exceeding proficiency.
This should provide teachers with a better understanding of what students understand and where they need support, Baker said.
Test takers will have access to such tools as spell check, a dictionary, a thesaurus and built-in glossaries in multiple languages.
Students also won't have the stress of trying to beat a clock because ILEARN is not timed, Baker said, calling that a big plus.
“Throw in the 500-plus educators that helped in the development, the 800-plus that will assist in scoring, and the fact in year two districts will see results in as little as 12 days, it is clear ILEARN is not only more robust but will do more for our schools and students,” he said.
Schools should expect this year's scores around August, Baker said.
Subjects tested are language arts and math in grades 3 through 8; science in grades 4 and 6; and social studies in Grade 5.
In high school, the ILEARN biology and optional ILEARN U.S. government end-of-course assessments will be offered. Sophomores will continue to take ISTEP+ this year and next, Baker said.
School superintendents in Allen County have said test results are not an indicator of school or teacher quality. They have also criticized the monthslong wait for ISTEP+ results and have said the scores provided no information about why students passed or didn't pass.
Marilyn Hissong, superintendent of East Allen County Schools, is reserving judgment about ILEARN.
“It's an unknown,” she said this week, adding the district aims to prepare its nearly 10,000 students for the future, not just a test. “We'll know more after we take it.”
Fort Wayne Community Schools is as ready as it can be for the new test, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said by email.
“Because this is the first year, we anticipate there will be some bumps, and we are grateful for the long testing window to allow us to adjust our schedules if issues occur,” she said.
Most FWCS schools do not plan to test Monday to avoid any first-day issues, she said. She noted testing will typically be done in the morning, when students' minds are fresh.
The ILEARN testing window runs through May 17.