This guest post is by Joan and Phil Harris, authors of The Myths of Standardized Tests, longtime ICPE members, and former ICPE–Monroe County board members.
Welcome to a new school year, and with it another assessment and yet another waste of Hoosier tax money and student and teacher time. Indiana’s constantly changing assessments make it impossible for any long term comparisons, as our state superintendent has acknowledged. What’s more, the information about how the test was developed is not available to the general public and apparently not to the Department of Education personnel either.
The problems that have recently been identified with the new ILEARN are imbedded in the details of the test item development and the number that was chosen to define passing scores. There are generally accepted standards for test development and test use, and they apparently have not been addressed in the preparation of Indiana’s ILEARN. The Department of Education seems not to have provided the required oversight of the development process.
MCCSC Superintendent Judith DeMuth and other Indiana district superintends are correct in publicly criticizing the state assessment. But this public criticism needs to go further, since ILEARN involves a lot of teacher and student time without providing any useful information for either teachers or students.
However, the pause that the state has invoked for last spring’s test needs to be broadened to cover the entire state assessment plan, so that the Department of Education and state legislators do not continue to use the test data for purposes for which the test was not created. The American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association and the National Council on Testing and Measurement have adopted testing standards, which are easily located online but are in no way visible in the current draft of the ILEARN test. The public outcry over this large expenditure for a testing program that has no evidence of meeting the development standards should be loud and continuous. The Department of Education has no authority to require the state’s school districts to administer an assessment tool that has not been appropriately validated. This lack of oversight has been apparent for many years, and the public needs to be aware that millions of dollars of state tax revenue have been and continue to be spent for seriously flawed products.
All Hoosiers need to have a conversation about how to develop meaningful learning measures of what we expect our students to know and be able to do. These better assessment tools may not be the kind of tools that the state says it needs to compare districts, but that comparative information is not particularly useful as the students in each district across Indiana are very different. Children in our public schools are not products that are identical and so should not be compared. Classroom teachers are in a much better position to monitor and appraise the work of students and to report on the level of performance with regard to our state content objectives and standards.
You wouldn’t want to purchase a medical prescription that hadn’t met safety standards set by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Nor should Indiana buy a test that hasn’t been appropriately vetted by generally accepted test development and use standards.
—Phil and Joan Harris
This guest post is by author, educator, and consultant Ray Golarz. For almost 20 years, Dr. Golarz directed work with at-risk children and gangs near Chicago. In addition, he did extensive work with juvenile courts, probation offices, and police departments.
The tragedy of this story is that it is the story of thousands and thousands of hardworking Americans.
Stan and Mary were married in 1953. In 1956, Stan returned home from the Korean War and got a job working on the Lake Erie docks in Cleveland. Soon Mary had their first child. A house became available in a modest neighborhood. With financial help of family they bought it. The house had a basement, kitchen, dining room, a small den, one bathroom and four bedrooms upstairs.
For the first five years after purchasing the house, they bought only the essentials. With any money left over they paid back their relatives.
Ultimately, they had five children who all attended the school down the street — Roosevelt Elementary. It was a school where parents and teachers worked together. Children understood that violating standards would not be tolerated.
Over the years Stan slowly improved their house. A second bathroom was added and in 1963 Stan began remodeling the kitchen, giving Mary a double sink, a window to look out of over her backyard and a larger area for the kitchen table. He finished the kitchen in 1965. In addition, he rewired the basement, built bookshelves in the den and put in a two-car garage. With friends and relatives, Stan laid a concrete driveway on the side of the house back to the garage. By the time he retired, there wasn’t much that hadn’t been rebuilt, repaired or touched up.
After a long, good life together raising their family in that comfortable home, Mary passed away. Stan, shortly thereafter, began getting confused, fell badly a couple of times and then went to live several miles away with a daughter and her husband.
Stan and Mary hadn’t saved a lot. They had spent their money frugally while raising their family. Stan had done most of the home improvements. Mary had cooked, cleaned and helped maintain the condition of their home while she tutored, nursed and gave individualized attention to a growing and maturing family.
Stan’s only real asset was the house, and now the time had come to sell it. He had kept it in good shape, and its reasonable sale would give to each of his children a small inheritance. So Stan arranged a meeting at the house with a real estate agent.
“Sir, I know the house is in great shape and immaculate but the school down the street has just been given a grade of ‘F’ by the state. So, finding a family willing to buy here will be immensely difficult. You may need to come down at least $40,000 or maybe more if you want to sell.” Stan said nothing. He just dropped his head then walked slowly to the sink and looked out of the window that Mary loved so much.
It was now time to say goodbye to the house and have his daughter drive him back to her home. They stopped for a red light, and from the rear seat of the car he looked out. He could see after-school children laughing and horse-playing as the left Betty J’s corner store, chewing their penny candy on their way home, full of hope and joy as his kids and their friends had done so often years ago. Stan slowly turned from the window and looked forward. He smiled. Nothing of real importance had really changed in the neighborhood.
Maybe someday someone would explain to him exactly what an “F” school was and why it meant that he now practically had to give his house away.