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EDITORIAL

State education in limbo after wide litany of issues

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 12:54 pm

As news trickled out on Twitter that the Indiana Department of Education was not going to keep its promise and release ISTEP-plus data to the public Sept. 9, we should have been prepared to believe it.

IDOE, after all, has proved it is anything but dependable at releasing accountability information. From ISTEP to IREAD-3 to A-F scores, the state has habitually abused those interested in keeping schools honest over the past year.

After drawing protests for implementing a growth model many educators said skewed Indiana’s A-F school grades against urban schools, officials blamed that very system for the twice-delayed October release of those scores last fall.

That delay left parents with no choice but to decide where to send their children to school on year-old academic data or on other factors entirely.

This summer, reporting brought to light alterations in that system that started with benefiting a school run by a political donor to then-Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett, casting their validity into doubt even after officials spent months preparing them.

Those grades are based on ISTEP test scores, which came under fire as well.

IDOE officials announced last week they would throw away about 1,400 tests, a very small percentage of those potentially affected by outages in the first year of mostly online testing this spring.

They announced at the same meeting that they would finally release results from this spring’s IREAD-3 third-grade reading exam, which is critical in determining if students continue to the third grade, leaving many students in limbo going into the school year.

Parents faced the same limbo as ISTEP results were delayed yet again, this time to decide how valid the test was, and while they and their schools received relief last Monday, those on the outside looking in are still clueless about which schools are performing the best.

The kind of free-market education economy state officials created through the voucher system and public school transfers is hampered by the chronically late, flawed and possibly doctored information presented to parents and the public.

Schools, meanwhile, yearn for guidance on what test they should prepare for in the future. At this point the state is still poised to switch, after several community meetings, to the Common Core State Standards, a set of guidelines to be used nationwide to gauge achievement that do not align to the ISTEP-plus.

Indiana officials not only paused implementation of the Common Core this spring; they also officially withdrew from a group of states working to create the PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — exam, putting what teachers will be tested on in doubt regardless of which standards are in place.

After this litany of issues, we’re more baffled than angry. After all this, we’re still eager for more information?

From the (Marion) Chronicle-Tribune