Monday, February 07, 2005

Hidden Agenda Behind Spring ISTEP Testing?

The Governor has proposed a change from Fall ISTEP testing to Spring ISTEP testing. I admit that on the surface this seems to make intuitive sense. Testing at the end of the year to see what students have gained over the course of the year seems logical to many people.

However, I propose the possibility that there is actually a hidden agenda behind this switch. Since the Governor has proposed slashing education budgets, there must be a compelling reason to propose spending millions of additional dollars just to make a change in testing procedures. Otherwise he isn't The Blade, just "The Butterknife."

I propose that someone in the Governor's inner circle actually knows that Indiana has made outstanding strides in improving the quality of education for Hoosier children. (This is despite the fact that the Governor insisted on saying that Indiana "lags" behind the rest of the nation.) The best way to make sure that the previous people in charge do not get credit for these improvements is to immediately change the testing so that comparisons are not valid. By changing the testing the Governor can seal off the past progress and take credit for what others have already worked so hard to put in place. (See NAEP for the real story about whether Indiana "lags" behind the nation) .

The story is making the rounds that when the Governor's office was questioned as to why the deception of saying Indiana "lags" behind the nation when the facts indicate otherwise, the reply was, "If you aren't number one then you are lagging behind." Another "talk-tough sound bite" but hardly sensible in the real world of attempting to educate all students to high levels.

After many years in education, I have never seen so many educators working so hard to improve the achievement of students. Would you please stop messing around and mixing things up? Allow the reforms that are already in place to have a chance to work. Spring or Fall - in the end the change isn't worth the cost for the following reasons:

1. Too expensive when budgets are beng slashed.
2. The switch to Spring testing does not allow the 917 schools that are using the NCA accreditation model to make valid comparisons of student achievement. Many schools have been learning to use fairly sophisticated data analysis measures to evaluate their progress. A change to Spring ISTEP testing clearly is NOT a good thing for almost one-third of Indiana's schools.

Note to legislators...leave the testing alone and attend to more important matters.

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