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Editorials

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     For sewer, bridge and road projects throughout the city.
  • A questionable 'no'
    The legislature is used to paring or turning down requests for more money. But the Indiana Department of Child Services’ decision not to ask for increased staff next year merits further examination.
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    If legislative leaders are serious about raising the ethical bar in the Indiana General Assembly, they suffered a setback with the election of Jon Ford on Nov. 4. He arrives at the Statehouse with some considerable baggage.
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Testing: 1, 2, 3
Remember the Iowa Test of Basic Skills? It’s not administered in Indiana classrooms today, but the state’s students completed a vast number of other tests this past school year, including:
Acuity: Diagnostic tests in math, language arts, science and social studies, administered to students in grades 3-8; in high school for algebra, geometry and English.
IREAD-3: Grade 3 reading proficiency test required for promotion to grade 4.
ISTEP+: Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus is currently required of students in grades 3-8.
mCLASS: Diagnostic tests used to assess reading and math skills for kindergarten through grade 2, including the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).
SRI: The Scholastic Reading Inventory is a computer-based reading assessment.
CogAT: The Cognitive Abilities Test is a screening exam used at the elementary and middle school levels to assess reasoning and problem-solving.
ECA: Mandatory end-of-course assessments are administered to high school students completing algebra I, biology I and sophomore English. Algebra and English results determine graduation eligibility.
Accuplacer: A College Board test product required of all high school juniors, plus selected sophomores and seniors.
Advanced Placement: Subject-area tests covering college-level high school courses.
Editorial

Students’battery of exams leaves little time for learning

Across the country, the backlash grows against standardized tests, with parents, educators, state officials and students proclaiming they’ve had enough.

•In May, Oklahoma legislators overturned the governor’s veto of a bill that allows exceptions for third-graders to be promoted if they fail the state’s punitive reading test.

•An estimated 30,000 students opted out of Common Core tests in New York this past spring, while Texas Parents Opt Out claimed that parents in more than 30 school districts across the state pulled their children from STAAR testing, the state’s equivalent of ISTEP+.

•The Rhode Island General Assembly last month approved a law to delay for three years any policy requiring students to pass a graduation exam to receive a diploma. The governor allowed it to become law without his signature.

•In April, comedian Louis C.K.’s tweet struck a nerve and went viral: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”

And in Indiana? Common Core critics created enough political unease to push lawmakers to dump the standards for a revised version, but the testing juggernaut continues. The Education Roundtable, at Gov. Mike Pence’s behest, is looking to expand testing. The Roundtable last month recommended extending ISTEP+ from grades 3-8 to include grades 9 and 10 for the 2015-16 academic year.

“A diploma from our high schools should signal that our graduates are ready for careers or college,” Pence said at the meeting.

The governor’s call for more testing runs counter to the growing national distress with high-stakes testing, but Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said it’s not surprising.

“The stay-the-course-crowd continues to push for more testing,” he said in an interview. “The (U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncans and others are gung-ho, raise-the-bar.

“What we are seeing nationally are lots of people are saying no to the toxic level of high-level testing – too many tests, too many consequences, results widely misused for ideological purposes,” Schaeffer said.

While Hoosiers haven’t embraced the opt-out movement growing elsewhere, they should at least recognize the effects of testing on the state’s education environment.

Schools of education across the state are seeing decreasing numbers of students interested in pursing teaching as a career. College faculty increasingly complain of students with no reasoning skills – unable and unwilling to explore subject matter beyond the rote memorization they learned in high school.

Little attention, meanwhile, goes to the students themselves. The ever-expanding number of assessments makes it more difficult for teachers to inspire creativity and a love for learning. The demands of test prep and administration squeeze out the unstructured moments that allowed generations of students to find the one subject they loved most.

Unless the grass-roots movement to counter the for-profit testing industry’s demands begins to build, Indiana students might one day excel at testing while failing at lifelong learning.

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