Posted in Indiana, Indiana DOE, ISTEP, retention, Testing

Society’s Commitment is Reflected in Tests

We continue to punish students, teachers, and schools with punitive standardized testing. One could argue that all this testing is worth it if it actually made a difference, but the truth is, testing only makes things worse.

A valid purpose for standardized testing might be for determining what students have learned. Yet despite the arguments against it such as the limitations of its content (reading and math, and not much else) and the cultural limitations putting some children at a disadvantage, we judge students, teachers, and schools, by this inadequate and often inappropriate measure.

For the most part, standardized tests are an excellent tool for determining students’ economic backgrounds.

As for invalid purposes…we have those as well.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate schools and to give them grades A through F and call it “accountability.” Yet there’s rarely “accountability” for the adults in legislatures and policy groups around the country who don’t seem to understand that public schools don’t choose their students. A school which is filled with poor children will have lower test scores. That doesn’t mean they’re not learning. It means that there’s likely neglect on the part of the governing body (the city or state) to adequately fund and maintain the school. It means that standardized tests don’t measure the arts, physical education, emotional development, and strength of character. It means that standardized tests don’t take into account trauma, hunger, lack of medical care, environmental toxins, and housing insecurity. It means that one size does not fit all.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate teachers calling them “effective” or “ineffective” based on a child’s score. Schools filled with wealthy students have “effective” teachers. Schools filled with poor students have “ineffective” teachers. Why? If a school doesn’t use test scores to evaluate teachers, then ignorant politicians will question how “failing schools” could have “effective” teachers without the slightest understanding that the “failure” is as much their fault as anyone else’s. Instead, we continue to punish the teachers who work with the children who are the most difficult to teach.

Invalid: We use tests to punish students for not learning at the speed we want them to learn. How many eight and nine year olds around the country are retained in grade because they haven’t mastered reading? How many policy makers have ever read the research on retention and its damaging effect on children? This is institutional child abuse based on faulty data.

ISTEP+ tossed for hundreds

Now comes the incompetent testing industry draining billions of tax dollars from public schools every year…using the wrong kinds of tests…in the wrong kinds of ways.

The company charged with administering Indiana’s standardized tests, and sucking millions of dollars from already minimal budgets, has failed in its task…putting the burden on schools to beg the state not to hold them “accountable.”

“It’s so discouraging for the children. It’s discouraging for everyone,” said Lori Vaughn, assistant superintendent at DeKalb Central United School District. “It is what it is. I hate that expression, but we’re going to move on. It’s a black eye when DOE puts (scores) out.”

She said 34 students in third grade at Waterloo Elementary and 19 students in fourth grade at the school will receive “undetermined” scores. This results in passing rates of less than 1 percent for third grade and 17 percent for fourth.

“It’s horrific,” Vaughn said. “And that’s what’s going to be put out with no explanation. It will impact our participation rate and our accountability grade.”

Test scores are a large factor in the A-to-F accountability grades that schools will receive later this year.

Department of Education officials told Vaughn there is nothing that can be done now but schools can appeal those A-to-F grades when they are issued.

Discouraging? It’s discouraging that after all this time we’re still using these tests to punish students, teachers, and schools.

Politicians and policy makers will denounce public schools as “failures” blaming parents and teachers for low test scores. They don’t realize that what standardized tests truly measure is a society’s commitment to its children.

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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.