Monday, March 2, 2015

Problem Solved?

So, the state standardized testing issue is solved, and the solution to shorten ISTEP+ will preserve the integrity of the test. Unfortunately the real problem is not the length of the test or the content standards. Rather it’s the use of a standardized test to make decisions for which it was never intended and has never been validated. Such misuse is touted as being in the interest of “accountability.” Who do we hold accountable for proper test development and use?

The new ISTEP+ test was put together in a rush to judgment. It was not field-tested; no trials were conducted to see whether the test met rigorous standards for test development. Now, the new recommendation is that testing time be reduced to about nine hours. This time reduction is to be achieved by eliminating items being field-tested for future use. So the test in the future will be as untried as this one.

Whatever its length, ISTEP+ has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation. To impose this untried test on students, parents, and teachers is nothing less than gross incompetence on the part of the state leadership. It serves no purpose to shorten the test when the test itself has never been properly validated.

The state assessment program is only one part of a larger set of problems that lawmakers have created in the push to privatize public education. The idea that competition can be used to fulfill a major responsibility of the state’s leadership fails to meet the constitutional standard of providing for the “common good.” Competition is an ineffective way of improving public services for the common good. The data that exist suggests exactly the opposite, that competition will destroy the interests of the common good.

We cannot give the students who have been misjudged back their lives. We cannot simply rehire teachers who have been driven out of the profession.  We cannot restore those communities that have been damaged morally and economically by misjudgments that labeled their schools as failing. The citizens of Indiana are being forced to participate in our lawmakers’ social engineering experiment.  In the end, our current leadership will walk away from any responsibility for the damage they do, because there is no mechanism to hold them accountable.

Indiana voters need to decide just what kind of education system they want: one that privileges the few and is driven by profit or one designed for the common good that will serve all children. How does the privatization of our public education system align with our democratic principles?

A bias has been created, portraying the public schools as failing. The facts tell a different story. Privatizing the public education system is the last gasp of those wanting to continue to make sure we have a class of working poor and disenfranchised citizens available to do minimum-wage jobs.

It’s time to take public education out of the political circus and have serious conversations about how public education should be reimagined to serve the common good.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ending Public Education in Indiana

The state of Indiana has released information for the 2015 ISTEP testing program as reported in the Herald Times on January 31, 2015. The testing time will be 3 hours and 27 minutes longer, assess new content and new formats plus technology enhanced questions. This new testing process was apparently completed in the past year after Indiana decided not to be a part of the CCSS and the accompanying assessment pilot.  

There are several things the public needs to understand.  First and foremost the changes preclude any comparison to previous years. The increased time, the different format and the new content make it an entirely new test. Given that this is a new test it is important to wonder when the state validated the new test items and conducted the validity and reliability studies that demonstrates the test does what it is intended to do.  

The State of Indiana is subjecting the students in our schools to a test that fails to meet any of the standards of test development and interpretation of the data. This failure to meet generally accepted standards should be considered gross misconduct on the part of our state legislators.  Teachers and administrators should refuse to participate in this testing program, because it fails to meet testing standards as recommended by the American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education.  Secondly, parents have a right to withhold their children from being subjected to unproven and inferior educational experiences. Students have the right not to have judgments made about their learning abilities at young ages with instruments that meet no standards.

Subjecting the citizens of the state to such ill-conceived and poorly planned experiences should be considered gross negligence and incompetence   Additionally, since this test is to be used to assess teacher quality the state leadership is obligated to show the data that proves test scores are a result of high quality effective teaching.

We are at a point where expressing our objection is insufficient. We need to take steps that send a message to our federal and state leadership that we have had enough of the mismanagement and abuse of our children's educational future.

This testing initiative is clearly not intended to improve the quality of the public education experience. The purpose of this new testing plan is designed to demonstrate how poorly our public schools are doing and promote the solution to move more of our children to private schools.  The legislators are failing to uphold their pledge to support the constitution of the State of Indiana.