The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 19, 2019 1:00 am

Parents hold the power to mandate ILEARN changes

Fred Gilbert

It is time for Indiana parents to opt out and remove their children from testing until testing is brought back to responsible use. Currently, the agony on all parties is tantamount to institutional abuse, forced upon our people by an irresponsible Republican supermajority.

I intend to help spearhead this nonparticipation unless the test is, by law, focused only on student needs assessment, period. I shall also work to use Department of Education resources to teach parents how to help students prepare for the computer skills needed. The legislature, by law, must remove the teacher and school accountability measures now suspended. The Interim Study Committee on Education must establish an open council to correct the existing problems. The enabling legislation for the study committee should allow for the immediate extension of this work.

This action is inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” Truly, the only party capable of holding lawmakers accountable is parents in their power to refuse to allow the exploitation and abuse of their children.

Observing the calamity of Indiana statewide testing and the most recent ILEARN disaster, I applaud the embargo of this test of alleged accountability measures for school and teacher evaluation. Much more needs to be done.

Since the days of the A+ lobby, I have participated in parental advocacy in our schools.

Working with H. Dean Evans, the part that testing was to play was a major focus. That focus would be a measure of student needs. Assurances were made to allay fears of the test results being used for other assessments such as teacher and general school comparisons.

In the past 10 years, I have seen that promise turned on its head by the arrogance and hubris driven by the Republican supermajority. Where accountability for charter and voucher schools and test contractors, as well as the ongoing mess in our Family and Social Services Administration system is needed, actions are ignored and accountability has been measured by how strong a lawmaker accounts for the contractors' political donation. The conflicts between governors, state elected officials and professional educational powers have been exploited, not nurtured.

As a refugee caseworker for more than 30 years in the Indiana FSSA, I helped facilitate the assimilation of thousands of immigrants from more than 29 nations.

Testing remains a major concern as that work continues in retirement. Their kids and the potential of my grandkids settling in Indiana will drive my efforts.

Thanks to dedicated efforts by Indiana Department of Education staff, I was able to navigate the DOE website to get a preview of the test itself and its sample tests which, without tutelage, would be very difficult.

I encourage lawmakers to do the same, so they can witness for themselves the daunting task faced by students, as well as seeing the awesome potential of this DOE resource in assisting parents, teachers and students in preparation for the use of the tool of ILEARN and other testing when administered properly.

The mechanic working on your car cannot use the on-board computer tools if she can't understand the data-retrieval instructions. I despair at thoughts of our limited-English students and others who lack the computer-based tools the test assumes. That alone destroys the accountability of the test. Student knowledge cannot be assessed when computer literacy itself is the primary skill measured.

I have seen the value of an assessment tool such as ILEARN that uses computer-based feedback in measuring students with advanced grade-level knowledge.

My granddaughter began kindergarten this year and, on the second day of school, she was able to read 67 of the 100 words she is expected to master by year's end. This is exactly what ILEARN intends to measure – for the individual student.

Learn from parents and teachers, who are your only real allies in this effort. Lawmakers who have mismanaged this for their own selfish purposes should resign and remove themselves from discussions except to explain from the sidelines how their neglectful actions have led us to this place.

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