The first set of scores for Indiana’s new ILEARN test has everyone on the same page, at least for a moment, about standardized testing.
Everyone from Gov. Eric Holcomb to state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick to the Indiana State Teachers Association, has called for “hold harmless year” — a one-year moratorium on any consequences that are tied to the results.
That’s in response to falling scores statewide for the Indiana Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network test. This was the first year that about 500,000 Hoosier students in grades three through eight took the ILEARN exam, which replaced the much-maligned ISTEP.
The results, released to the public Wednesday, show that 37.1% of students in third through eighth grade statewide were rated proficient in both the English language arts and math portions of the ILEARN test in 2019, compared to 50.7% who passed the 2018 ISTEP.
In a statement last week, Holcomb said that since this is the test’s first year, he wants the legislature to “hold schools harmless so the test scores do not have an adverse impact on teacher evaluations and schools’ letter grades for the 2018-19 school year. This action will ease the transition to ILEARN.”
McCormick also wants the General Assembly to take action. And she said she’ll ask lawmakers to give the State Board of Education emergency rule-making power to address these types of issues going forward.
McCormick and others — including the Tribune Editorial Board — have been critical of how Indiana uses standardized test scores as a factor in determining teacher pay raises and for rating schools. Indiana currently grades schools on an A to F scale, with too many Fs putting a school at risk of a state takeover.
Asked last week whether the millions that have been spent on assessment exams have been worth it, McCormick said, “I think that’s the question we need to have a lot of conversation about. There’s a lot of money on the line. There’s a lot of time on the line, a lot of stress on the line.”
Lawmakers should pass “hold harmless” legislation so that schools won’t be unfairly penalized. We have no doubt they will do so, given widespread support for such action. But they should also take the superintendent’s suggestion to have a deeper conversation about developing an accountability system that is fair and accurate.
That conversation is long overdue.