Posted in ISTEP, Testing

Tweaking an Invalid System – Still Invalid

INDIANA A-F GRADES FOR SCHOOLS

Steve Hinnefeld’s blog, School Matters: K12 Education in Indiana, is one of my regular reads. His reporting and analysis of the privatization of public education in Indiana is invaluable. He regularly takes the legislature and governor to task for their political- rather than researched-based approach to so-called “education reform” in our state.

I say that because I want to be clear at the beginning of this post that I am a fan of School Matters. I intend this post to be, not a criticism of his post, Good news on school grading, but an extension.

That being said…

Good news on school grading

The state is shifting to a system that’s supposed to count student growth on test scores as much as it counts performance, a fairer approach if you’re going to grade schools — which we are. Indiana is also moving to a new method of measuring growth, relying on where student scores fall on what’s called a Growth to Proficiency Table.

The important words in that paragraph are…

…a fairer approach if you’re going to grade schools — which we are…

TESTING 101

I recently quoted Diane Ravitch,

…a cardinal rule of testing is that tests should be used only for the specific purpose for which they were created.

Student achievement tests are, in Indiana and other states, being used for many purposes besides that for which they were created. We use student test scores to

  • evaluate student learning
  • grade schools
  • promote or retain students
  • provide a ranking for teacher bonuses
  • evaluate, promote, or fire teachers
  • evaluate school corporations

What is the purpose of achievement tests? Here is a simple definition from UCDavis:

Achievement tests measure the extent to which a person has “achieved” something, acquired certain information, or mastered certain skills – usually as a result of planned instruction or training. It is designed to efficiently measure the amount of knowledge and/or skill a person has acquired, usually as a result of classroom instruction.

Student achievement tests are developed for evaluating student achievement, the first bullet, above. The other uses by the state are not included in the development process for the tests…and therefore ought not to be used. To do so is an invalid use of the test.

A FAIRER APPROACH

Focusing on growth equalizes the results of tests somewhat, but it doesn’t eliminate the fact that we are using tests in the wrong way – to make high stakes decisions about things for which the test was not created.

…IF YOU’RE GOING TO GRADE SCHOOLS — WHICH WE ARE…

A student teaching supervisor from a state university in Indiana posted this from one of her student teachers. The student teacher wrote…

Overall, I’m observing how many different ways our education system is broken but especially our special education system. Testing is incredibly frustrating to watch in this classroom. I watched a student completely fail all parts of his ISTEP in front of me. It really is discouraging in many ways but is also motivating. I know I’m not a superhero but if there is any time to be in education and try to stop kids from being failed by a broken system-it’s now!

Even a pre-service teacher understands that inappropriate testing must stop. Making tests harder doesn’t help. Changing tests doesn’t help. No matter how you tweak an invalid system it’s still invalid.

Replacing ISTEP+ isn’t enough. We must put an end high stakes testing and put an end developmentally inappropriate testing.

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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.