Indiana Department of Education seeks outside review of ISTEP
Sunday, June 02, 2013 10:00 PM
The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) informed schools that it is soliciting an outside review of the ISTEP test results following a series of computer issues that will delay test results until late July. An independent evaluator will assess the test's validity. There has been no mention of the cost that will be incurred by the third-party review. CTB McGraw-Hill, the ISTEP provider, is in a four-year, $95 million contract with Indiana through June 2014. Will this expense be covered by CTB, passed onto taxpayers, or funding be further diverted away from public education?
CTB has provided schools a list of students who experienced interruptions during the assessment administration. Our administrators are now combing through the spreadsheets, as well as their own documentation of student testing issues to try to sort out the mess created by this year's ISTEP testing. This leaves thousands of Hoosier educators scratching their heads wondering how validity can possibly be determined with so many varying, widespread issues.
IDOE reported problems with the online format affected roughly 70,000 tests, which has led many of us to believe that the results should be ruled invalid. It is very difficult for us to see how these tests could possibly be valid, given the extent of the disruption.
ISTEP results have become intensely important in the last few years as new legislation ties the data to teacher compensation and how much money school districts receive based on the state's A-F grading system. For some teachers, up to 40% of their teacher effectiveness status, which determines if they get a pay raise, relies on ISTEP results. School letter grades are currently heavily dependent upon these test results. It is not that educators oppose standardized testing in its entirety, because appropriately used it can be utilized for diagnostic purposes, which is the purpose for its development. However, these tests were never intended to evaluate teachers, close schools or assign a school with a letter grade.
According to Alfi Kohn, education analyst, "The people driving this movement are much more likely to be corporate executives and politicians than to be people who really understand how learning happens, and unfortunately, a lot of educators have capitulated to this drive to uniformity, either because they're afraid to speak out or because they haven't been invited to reflect on the difference between excellence on the one hand and uniformity or competitiveness on the other."
As we all become better informed about the misuse of standardized testing results, we need to, in the words of Dr. Brene Brown, "Dare greatly!" This is already underway in Indiana with the recent result of the state superintendent of public instruction election. Educators are leaders, and each person has a responsibility to be engaged in changing the system and our profession. We cannot wait for someone to rescue us.
I don't believe any process can accurately determine the validity of this spring's ISTEP results. There was nothing "standardized" about the way the test was given. Computers locked up, booted students off, lost their answers, or forced them to start over. All of these issues could not possibly yield valid results therefore, they should not be used for high stakes measures.
I agree with Fort Wayne Superintendent, Wendy Robinson, when she said this week, "We will not stand by and be victims of this broken system."
Dr. Colleen Moran is superintendent of the North Montgomery Community Schools Corp.