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ILEARN standardized testing disaster shouldn't surprise anyone

The Indiana Department of Education messed up again. What’s new?

While less than half of students in Indiana are proficient in math and language arts, according to the recently-released ILEARN scores, the State of Indiana deserves the failing grade.

It’s no surprise that Gov. Eric Holcomb is seeking a waiver to protect schools across our state from getting hit where it hurts, since standardized testing scores factor into the letter grade assigned to each corporation, which in turn determines funding levels.

Holcomb is calling for a “hold harmless” year, meaning these scores won’t affect funding, but even if the scores are thrown out, educators across our county will have less control over how big their checks will be.

Our public schools are already fighting desperately to keep steady levels of funding, especially rural schools.

When Indiana rolled out one of the largest state-wide voucher programs in the county during the 2010-11 school year, it turned an already underfunded education system into chaos.

Private and charter schools, which aren’t held to the same standards or laws governing public schools, now receive state tax dollars under the plan. The school choice program not only gouges public school budgets, it pits schools against each other like businesses.

Legislators say the plan is designed to increase competition in public education and give parents more freedom on where to send their children, but the increased competition also causes schools to shovel money – which should be spent in the classroom – into marketing materials, athletic teams and other schemes to attract students.

Here’s a novel idea: Let’s invest in teacher salaries, better instructional methods and other resources instead of wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a new-age test that has failed us miserably.

ILEARN was designed as a college-readiness test, but it should simply be designed to grade students on their ability to understand the state standards. 

It’s great that the DOE wanted to challenge students by creating a test that got increasingly harder as students answered answers correctly, but it appears the algorithm wasn’t fine-tuned considering the wide-ranging results.

Oak Hill United School Corporation had the top score in Grant county, coming in at 34.4 percent proficiency in language arts and math, while Marion Community Schools received the lowest score, earning an 18.8 percent proficiency rate.

Although the overall test was a flop, at least the scores show where work needs to be done in our county.

While the State of Indiana is evaluating their next move, it is important that our teachers adapt to the ever-changing situation that is standardized testing.

No matter what the DOE throws at us, let’s start with the basics. If we want our students to succeed, we all need to encourage the children of our county to read. Reading comprehension skills translate into all facets of education, and increasing literacy is something every parent can control.

As we prepare for the next round of standardized tests, let’s hope the State of Indiana does its homework and starts investing in public schools and listening to teachers in the classroom.