State superintendent Glenda Ritz has signaled her desire to revamp the Indiana Department of Education’s policies about teaching literacy, including eventually scrapping the high-stakes reading test the state’s third graders will begin taking next week.
Ritz continued her criticism of the IREAD-3 exam at a public event in Anderson this weekend. Indiana Public Radio’s Stephanie Wiechmann was there:
“If you ask me today for the reading levels of the students of Indiana, I could give you zero information because we don’t collect it. We don’t know the actual level of performance of any student in Indiana with our state test. We just know whether they passed or failed a non-grade-level test,” Ritz said.
Ritz says the statewide skills test also does not show individual student progress for math. Ritz says she wants less testing in classrooms and targeted the IREAD-3 exam that her predecessor, Tony Bennett, began giving to third-grade students last year.“Elementary teachers — teachers of reading — they know how to assess reading when they’re working right there with the kids,” Ritz said. “I don’t need to give them a test.”
IREAD-3 supporters say test spurs educators into helping struggling readers before they leave the third grade.
“We know students who do not have these skills by the end of grade 3 rarely catch up to their peers,” Bennett said last May.
Those who supported Bennett’s push for the third grade reading exam say it was about more than retention. As Derek Redelman, who watches education policy for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, told StateImpact last May:
They have been promoting particular curriculum approaches that have evidence backing up their success. They have urged this 90-minute reading block as one of the issues, but not the only one. They have created several diagnostic testing opportunities so that teachers and schools can monitor the progress that their students are making. I think it’s a whole set of approaches.
At the same forum where Ritz spoke this weekend, The Herald Bulletin reports Anderson Community Schools superintendent Felix Chow also criticized policies he says puts too much focus on testing.
“Today’s system is so industrialized, we time it by the clock,” Chow told the Anderson newspaper. “It’s not true education. Not everyone learns the same or at the same rate. I always tell my students, ‘Don’t look for the answer alone, look for the process.’”