Published Online: June 25, 2014

Educators wary of new assessment tests' impact

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The state's plan to seek a contractor to design a new standardized test for the 2015-2016 school year has some educators concerned the short timetable could create challenges for Indiana's teachers, students and parents.

Walter Lambert, the director of secondary curriculum and instruction for Warrick County School Corp., worries that the federal Department of Education, the State Board of Education and Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz are all looking for something different when it comes to standardized tests.

"I think all three entities have different ideas of what they want for testing, so it's about getting to the best solution for kids and even for taxpayers because it does cost a significant amount of money to give these tests," he told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1meiWCu ).

State officials announced earlier this week that major changes in Indiana's education policies will have students taking new, different standardized tests in each of the next two academic years.

Federal education officials have said contractor CTB/McGraw-Hill will create the test for the 2014-2015 year in order for Indiana to maintain its waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. The state will seek a contractor to design a new standardized test for 2015-2016. The deadline to meet federal concerns and submit a one-year extension over the waiver is Monday.

Ritz, a Democrat, suggested Monday that the new tests provide a separate reading score, but a majority of the state's Education Roundtable and Republican Gov. Mike Pence disagreed, saying the State Board of Education could discuss reading scores at a later date.

Evansville Teachers Association President Mark Lichtenberg said a lack of reading comprehension data — which teachers and parents use to determine the best educational path for students — is one of the flaws in the current assessment system.

"The leading indicator of academic success is reading comprehension," he said. "By not embedding reading level data in assessments such as IREAD and ISTEP, teachers must turn to other assessments in order to get that information."

Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Superintendent David Smith said the district is interested in seeing what content the new test covers. He also said the district is working this summer to align its curriculum with the new state standards adopted in April, and officials are finding gaps in what was not included in the standards and having to fill those.

Smith said there is a lot at stake with standardized testing.

"I can understand the need to take a year's pause to determine the validity and reliability of data," Smith said, "but I do understand the desire to continue to have accountability metrics for schools."

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com


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