When I read my colleague David Hoff’s post about Barack Obama’s views that No Child Left Behind has “narrowed” the curriculum, my eyes bugged out at one line in The Hoff’s post:
“He (Obama) also suggested that testing should happen at the beginning of the school year so the results can help the teacher and that accountability decisions should be made based on student growth.”
Believe it or not, spring versus fall testing was one of the most contentious education issues in the Indiana Statehouse, and one I wrote about often for The Indianapolis Star. Many years ago, Indiana’s standardized test, called ISTEP, was given in the spring, but some education leaders thought there was too much teaching-to-the-test going on in the school year. Plus, Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed said over and over again, in support of fall testing, that educators needed to find out what kids knew, and not what they had memorized in the months leading up to the test. So, in 1996, the legislature switched the test to the fall.
Well, some people didn’t like fall testing either, in part because schools and teachers could be penalized for low test scores that were more reflective of what the students learned the year before. What’s more, many districts were starting their school year earlier and earlier in August to give students and teachers more prep time for the fall test. But that was difficult for the big, urban districts, such as Indianapolis Public Schools, because many schools there didn’t have air conditioning. So for years, teachers’ groups and policymakers lobbied the legislature to change back to spring testing. It even became an issue in the 2004 governors’ election for Republican Mitch Daniels, who won the seat. He eventually twisted enough arms to get the State Board of Education to switch back to spring testing, which went into effect the following school year.
When I left Indiana in 2006, I hoped I’d never hear another debate about giving kids their standardized tests in the fall versus the spring.
Leave it to Barack Obama to bring this up again!