Another round of dismal ISTEP scores

Sunday, September 17, 2017

If you want to hear a searing indictment of how the Indiana education establishment has botched its testing regime, just listen to a couple of school superintendents who have to deal with the resulting mess.

“ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed,” Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel tells WANE-TV. “It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them.”’

And Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs chimes in: “ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents.”

The latest results are in from the ISTEP standardized exams given last spring to nearly 500,000 students, and the results are just dismal.

Statewide, only 46 percent of students in grades 3-8 passed both the math and English sections of the test, according to the state. At the high school level, just 31.4 percent of 10th graders did.

Not even 50 percent. With scores that low, one of only two things is possible. Either Hoosier students are the dumbest in the nation. Or the people testing our children are the most incompetent in the nation.

Are those two extremes too harsh? What other explanation is there? It’s clear that education officials aren’t measuring what they need to be measuring.

It’s vital to talk about this, because next spring is the last time ISTEP tests will be given. They will be replaced after that with a new test named ILEARN for the 2019 exams. Details on the new test are still being worked out, which is not reassuring. “Some critics worry it won’t be much different than ISTEP,” The Associated Press reports. Yeah, no kidding.

We’ve said this many times, and we’ll keep saying it until someone pays attention: Indiana can no longer afford to just keep replacing bad tests with other bad tests, lurching from one poorly thought out plan to another. At some point, the education establishment needs to have a long, serious discussion about why students are tested and what needs to be learned from the testing. Before the state gets that fundamental task accomplished, it will just be spinning its wheels.