The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 23, 2019 1:00 am

A test for lawmakers:

ILEARN no better than its predecessor in measuring teachers', students' success

Scott Hanback, Les Huddle and Rocky Killion

In the next few weeks, the Indiana Department of Education will release the results of the new ILEARN assessments administered this spring to all Indiana public school students in grades 3 through 8.

ILEARN is another version of standardized testing such as ISTEP. However, ILEARN has some disconcerting implementation practices that will negatively affect students, their teachers and their respective school districts.

Those practices include: 1) testing students on materials they have had little exposure to; 2) providing a rescore request time frame before parents or school administrators could access any student's ILEARN score; and 3) setting much higher pass/failure cutoff scores after the testing was concluded.

What this means is that most Indiana public schools' ILEARN scores will be significantly lower, thus creating a perception that public school teachers are not adequately providing Indiana children with a high-quality education. This is simply not true. However, because of the lower test scores, teacher compensation could be negatively affected since Indiana requires that objective measures of student achievement and growth “must significantly inform the evaluation.”

Our teachers and staff work hard every day to ensure their students are receiving a high-quality education. There are many more metrics that can validate this, including increased graduation rates, higher SAT and ACT scores, teacher-developed assessments, longitudinal academic data and measuring student learning over time.

We do not want to see our teachers adversely affected by a new standardized testing system (ILEARN) that they have no control over. Our students and teachers are more than a test score.

Also, our teachers and staff employ research-based strategies to help improve learning. Standardized testing is just the opposite: There is no valid research to suggest it will improve student learning. There is a better way of supporting Indiana public school teachers, and we are asking Hoosiers to contact their state legislators to demand the following:

1) Prevent the current ILEARN scores from adversely affecting Indiana public school teachers;

2) Pause the accountability requirements of grading school districts based, in part, on the current ILEARN scores;

3) Give teachers and administrators an adequate amount of time to review the new ILEARN assessment so they can make the appropriate adjustments in curriculum and instruction; and

4) Quit changing public education metrics and requirements every few years.

ILEARN is a perfect example of why we believe state mandates are hurting our students, teachers and school districts. We are very concerned about the number of teachers and staff leaving the profession and the lack of young people entering the teaching profession. In a recent Phi Delta Kappa poll, 50% of teachers polled indicated they have considered leaving the profession, and a majority of parents said they were discouraging their children from becoming teachers. 

If legislators believe we need a school letter grade to feed the political machine we call public school accountability, so be it. However, we should unlock standardized test scores from teacher evaluations.

Our teachers and staff work hard in the classroom. There is teaching and learning going on daily that ILEARN can never measure.

Evaluating teachers and school districts with one standardized test score is not a measure of proficiency. Professional educators use multiple student achievement data sources to influence instruction and improve students' academic achievement.

We must get away from using one academic datum point – ILEARN scores – to measure the effectiveness of teachers and school districts.

Scott Hanback, top, Les Huddle and Rocky Killion are superintendents of Tippecanoe County School Corporation, Lafayette School Corporation and West Lafayette Community School Corporation, respectively.

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