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The State of Indiana needs to reevaluate standardized testing

Recently, ILEARN testing results were released to the public. ILEARN is the new annual standardized test required by the State of Indiana to replace ISTEP.

The average ILEARN test resulted in more than 50 percent of the students in Indiana “failing” this test. If a teacher failed over half his/her students on a test, we would question the validity and legitimacy of such a test. The State of Indiana continues to grade educators/schools/students based on the results of standardized tests, which have highly questionable “validity.”

How many small communities are being hurt economically when the local school is rated below an A/B according to state testing standards? This educational policy is negatively affecting economic circumstances with the local school graded a C to F – they don’t know this grade is due to an “invalid” test! Is it a fair test and system when half or less of the students can pass the test? The ILEARN test may be appropriate for “high ability” and “high achieving” students, but certainly is not appropriate for approximately 50 percent of our Indiana students.

In the 21st century, our students are competing in the marketplace nationally and globally. Consequently, we need an educational system which focuses on five objectives simultaneously:

n Teach “basic (soft)” skills and knowledge in the core subjects of literacy and math and have a standardized testing measurement for grades 2-8.

n establish curriculum for students in grades 3-12 to promote critical thinking and problem solving in science, social studies, business and technology. Emphasis should be placed on “real world” application and project-based learning opportunities.

n promote curriculum to facilitate “creative” thinking and performance beginning in preschool through grade 12 (includes the arts, PE/health, writing and problem solving).

n Promote participation in extracurriculars, service/volunteer work and career/vocational (technical) exploration in grades 7-12.

n Expand individual learning opportunities through technology and digital access allowing for students to continue their education beyond the school walls and the traditional 180 day school calendar.

The state in collaboration with local school boards as equal partners should develop a system of observation and evaluation of schools based on these five objectives.

We are wasting time and money on the current system of testing and grading students/staff/schools and communities based almost exclusively on an “invalid” test. We owe it to our taxpayers and students to do better. Our politicians need to listen closely to educational leaders, school board members and parents and make substantive reform to the current system.

– Tab McKenzie, Mississinewa Community Schools Superintendent