In a few weeks, ISTEP+ results will be released for all Indiana public schools. When they are released, everyone will probably notice another decline in standardized test scores across the state.
Indiana continues to spend over $100 million annually on standardized testing. As with the last three years, there have been many problems with this year's testing and scoring. Specifically, more than 20 schools' math scores were affected by the testing company's error, which is administered by Pearson.
There could be more errors, but transparency is not the name of game in the standardized testing industry. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has researched Indiana's testing problems.
Not only is Indiana having issues with its standardized testing company's implementation, but so too are other states.
Consider Minnesota. Thousands of high school students were in danger of not graduating because of failing their state's standardized math test. A frustrated father, who is an attorney, requested to see his daughter's test. State education officials refused his request. Upon threat of a lawsuit, education officials finally allowed him to see it. Of the 68 questions on the test, he found the test scoring company, Pearson, had scored six questions incorrectly. Pearson ended up paying about $7 million to cover all the issues associated with this major scoring error.
So when the ISTEP+ scores are released, remember to consider the following questions:
1) How do we know the standardized test scores are accurate?
2) If the majority of public schools have the same teachers, the same students and the same curriculum, why are the test scores dropping?
3) Why is Indiana spending over $100 million in taxpayers' money for a broken testing system?
Standardized test scores should not regulate student, teacher and school corporation effectiveness. As with any school year, past, present or future, there is no educational value to ISTEP+ scores or in comparing these scores between school corporations.
There is no educational value in the scores because ISTEP+ assessments give no educational information as to how our children are doing compared with other states or nations.
There is no educational value to ranking school corporations by ISTEP+ scores from year to year because school corporations are not testing the same number of students from the same socioeconomic environments. Last year's K-12 students are much different from this year's K-12 students.
A statistically sound approach for measuring student achievement and holding school corporations accountable for student learning is that of measuring student academic growth over time, which ISTEP+ does not do. True accountability can only be achieved when:
1) Educators control the educational decisions concerning Indiana public school students;
2) Student academic growth over time, rather than ISTEP+ scores, is used in the accountability model; and
3) Money spent on standardized testing is reallocated for early childhood education programs and helping students who live in poverty.
Rocky Killion is superintendent of West Lafayette Community Schools.