INDIANA LEGISLATIVE SEASON BEGINS
I know it’s early in the legislative season and the bills being introduced in the Indiana Legislature are not all intended to become law. In fact, I suspect some of the bills introduced early in a session are for the expressed purpose of making later bills seem less crazy. When Representative “Florist” introduces a bill to transfer yet more public money from public schools to private and charter schools it will seem mild compared to Senator “Whacko’s” bill to force schools to teach the controversy about the Heliocentric Theory of the Universe (NOTE: To my knowledge no Indiana legislator has introduced legislation to teach that the sun moves around the Earth…at least not yet).
Thus, it’s possible that Senate Bill 169 (see below) will never get out of committee. But because of the terrible things being done to public education by legislatures in general, and Indiana’s legislature in particular, it’s worth paying attention to even the most insane education bill.
I won’t go through all the arguments about how standardized testing in elementary schools is being overused and misused. I have talked about that enough on these pages. If you’re really interested in everything I’ve said over the last 8 years click here for all of the 219 of my posts on the subject (number subject to change).
Instead, you could read any or all of the following…
- Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch (especially Chapter 5 – The Facts About Test Scores and Chapter 11 – The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores).
- The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future by Linda Darling-Hammond (especially Chapter 3 – New Standards and Old Inequalities: How Testing Narrows and Expands the Opportunity Gap).
- The Case Against Standardized Testing by Alfie Kohn.
- Testing is Not Teaching by Donald Graves.
Once you learn about standardized testing you know that it should not be used
- for high stakes decisions (especially for young children) such as graduation or grade placement
- as the basis of evaluations of schools or teachers
- as a determiner of merit pay for teachers
Standardized tests should only be used for the purpose for which they are designed. Period. Standardized achievement tests like Indiana’s IREAD-3 and ISTEP, should only be used to measure the achievement of students. Teachers should be given the information gleaned from the test (if there is any) in order to help their students. The tests should not be used to punish school systems, schools, teachers, or students.
Indiana is one of a handful of states which use a third grade reading test, in Indiana’s case, IREAD-3, to determine placement of students in grade 4. This is in direct contradiction of good testing policy, yet we do it anyway.
TEST ALL OF THEM…ALL. OF. THEM.
Freshman Senator Erin Houchin has introduced Senate Bill 169 which provides for the state to move the third grade reading test — which must be passed before one moves to fourth grade — to second grade. It would seem that Senator Houchin would like to see second graders pass a reading test before they move on to third grade.
Fortunately, Senator Houchin wasn’t interested in adding another layer of testing. Her bill would require a second grade test to replace the test for third grade (although for the first year after the bill becomes law both grades will be tested. We wouldn’t want anyone to get away without their IREAD test).
Senate Bill 169: Requires that the state superintendent of public instruction’s reading deficiency remediation plan (IREAD-3) provide a reading evaluation for students by grade 2. (Current law provides that the evaluation must be made by grade 3.)
Perhaps Senator Houchin believes that the earlier we identify children with reading problems the better. If so, that’s good, because it’s true…and I applaud her for understanding that. However, we have teachers for that. During the years I taught second grade (or kindergarten, or first grade, or any other grade I taught) I never had to use a standardized test to help me identify which students needed extra help in reading. I was able to identify students who needed extra help and worked towards meeting their individual needs all on my own. Why? Because I was the teacher. That’s what I was trained to do.
The state of Indiana is filled with excellent teachers who know their students. We don’t need another misused standardized reading test to tell us which students need extra help. We didn’t need it for third grade students…and we certainly don’t need it for second graders. What we do need is to take the money we spend on the overuse of testing and provide schools with resources — materials and personnel — to help the students who are struggling.
CALL TO ACTION
Indiana residents, read Vic’s Statehouse Notes #190. The committee meets Wednesday, January 14, 2015. If that date hasn’t yet arrived then I urge you to email or call your senator as well as the senators on the Senate Education Committee. Tell them that it’s bad enough that we have a test with high stakes attached for third graders…we should definitely NOT move IREAD to second grade.
Contact Indiana Senators by Tuesday, January 13, 2015!
If you need any talking points, use Vic’s Statehouse Notes #190 or
Second Grade Testing: A Position Paper from The National Center for Fair and Open Testing
Most seven-year-olds are still in the process of acquiring the complex skills involved in learning to read and write. They need a chance to consolidate these skills which, at first, are fragile and inconsistent. Premature testing, no matter how well intentioned, is discouraging to the learner like having a work-in-progress exposed to summary judgment. And no matter how well intentioned the tests, no matter what the disclaimers or reassurances, the results will be understood by the children as judgment.
On Standardized Testing by the Association for Childhood Education International
…the Association for Childhood Education International denounces the contin- ued use of standardized testing in the primary grades and cautions against the use of these tests as a sole means of assessment in every year throughout the upper grades. Standardized tests are inappropriate to future learning and the motivation to learn. They have taken away the power of classroom teachers to make informed decisions about instruction and learning that leads to critical thinking, higher level learning, and decision-making.
Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
In general, assessment specialists have urged great caution in the use and interpretation of standard- ized tests of young children’s learning, especially in the absence of complementary evidence and when the stakes are potentially high…
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.