An Open Letter to Our Communities:
As our school districts prepare for the release of the most recent ISTEP+ scores, we feel it is critical to provide our families and community members with important and clarifying information on the testing and resulting scores. As school corporations, we have worked together to share information that will create awareness of the facts, provide a sensible perspective on upcoming results, and advocate a voice of reason for our communities to come together to support our students and teachers as we work to find solutions in a flawed and mismanaged assessment system.
With the implementation of sweeping new educational standards and changes made to the content and construction of the ISTEP+ test, schools anticipate significantly lower tests scores. The rushed adoption of the latest standards creates unrealistic expectations for teachers and students to meet the requirements of the new standards. Research and data indicate the scores in the first year of a new assessment will drop.
Since the mid 2000’s the Indiana State Board of Education has changed educational standards in Indiana several times. In April 2014, the English/Language Arts and Math standards were changed by the Indiana State Board of Education. This gave teachers very limited, unrealistic, and an unreasonable amount of time to adjust curriculum and teaching methods to align with the new standards mandated by the state.
Federal officials have indicated a one year pause in accountability due to the increased rigor of the new tests would be understandable. Instead, the Indiana State Board of Education implemented new standards, developed a new test during the year, and required testing of students in the spring of 2015. No time or consideration was given to create materials and assessments to predict student success. Passing scores were deliberately determined after the ISTEP+ test was given to ensure that a certain percentage of the students would not pass.
There is great concern throughout the state regarding the types of standardized tests given to students in Indiana during the spring of 2015school year. Schools were required to give the online exam unless they were unable to do so. Schools were also assigned two different versions of ISTEP+. Schools have reported significant differences in student scores depending on the type and form of test given: therefore, no valid analysis of these scores can be performed and the results are questionable.
While the ISTEP+ indicated significant failure across our state, there are numerous indicators that the state of education in Indiana is improving. The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test in Indiana produced its highest scores in history. For example, Indiana 4th grade students are ranked fourth in the nation in mathematics.
We believe our students are learning and growing. We believe our schools are performing well. We believe our communities should be proud of our teachers and administrators who work diligently every day to support students. Our state government officials must create an accountability system that is truly reflective of the growth of our students and they must understand the negative impact their decisions have had on our students, teachers, schools, and communities.
Dr. Terry Sargent, Superintendent
Jennings County School Corporation
Dr. Ginger Studebaker-Bolinger, Superintendent
Madison Consolidated School Corporation
Mr. Trevor Jones, Superintendent
Southwestern Jefferson County Schools
Mr. Bob Anderson, Superintendent
Scott County School District 1
Dr. Marc Slaton, Superintendent
Scott County School District 2