Would there be a flap over ISTEP if kids knew the material?

I cannot say I know all the ins and outs of the current Indiana flap over the length of ISTEP testing. The annual test is intended to measure the proficiency level of students in the basic areas of study. Here is the definition given by the state for the mandated program:

“The purpose of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) program is to measure student achievement in the subject areas of English/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.”  It’s all part of the “No Child Left Behind” federally mandated program. The testing for students grade 3-8 is an annual event that teachers and students practice for days prior to the actual computer-based test. (http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/assessment/iapm-1415-chapter-01-istep.pdf)

Recently, teachers, administrators, and others have complained the 2015 test is much too long–three hours too long! Glenda Ritz (D), the often embattled Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, trimmed the test by eliminating social studies, thereby cutting the test short by three hours. Does that even sound sensible, eliminating an entire section. Previously, Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence, in an executive action, ordered the test shortened.

I wonder why it is necessary to worry over a lengthy test? If students are being schooled in the areas to be tested in the first place, would they not know the material well enough to take a test? Now, it is likely folly, and perhaps not fair to compare Apples and Oranges, but I seem to remember Friday was quiz day in virtually every subject taught back in the day. Remember those long, narrow, lined sheets of paper issued for each test? Oh, I know…”back in the day” doesn’t relate to today.

Wait just a darn minute! If we are not effectively teaching in the first place, no test of any kind will demonstrate successfully having learned the subject matter. Is that not so? The very fact students must “practice” taking the test for a month or so before the “real test” is given seems to me to be tangible evidence our kids may not be learning and retaining grade-to-grade. Does all this fuss not point to the fact a large majority of our children are not learning the basic English/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies as they move from grade to grade? Is all the worry by teachers and administrators over testing because low scores will reflect badly upon their ability to teach?

In my view, these are all good questions that beg answers. It just seems to me the problem is very fundamental, and goes to the very heart of what are the shortcomings of American educational systems today: Are our children not learning, and not being taught effectively? If that is so, no one seems to be making a real effort to solve the problem. Why? — D. C. ‘Dan’ Lee

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