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.