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MCCSC Parent Frustrated By Required Standardized Testing After Remote Learning

Dana Hovious has two kids in the Monroe County school district. There’s Billy who’s in the third grade and Lily who is in the seventh.

Federal and state education officials say the opposite, that learning loss makes standardized testing more important than ever. (Alex Paul WFIU/WTIU News)

Dana Hovious has two kids in the Monroe County school district. There’s Billy who’s in the third grade and Lily who is in the seventh.

Hovious has done her best to help her kids adjust to remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s been hard for everyone.

“Like many parents, I still have to work,” she said. “There's still bills that need to be paid. And it was difficult to arrange all of that to make sure that somebody is with them doing the things that they need to do.”

Hovious’ boyfriend would stay home during the day to help the kids with school, and she’d take over at night after work.

Lily says she’s missed being with her friend group during the pandemic.

“It’s kind of weird, to be honest,” she said. “We used to sit at a big table together, before this happened. And we’d sit next to each other. We were able to talk about what we wanted to do next.”

The school corporation has since allowed in-person learning, but another hurdle for students remains: standardized testing.

“After all that they have done, you’re requiring to do this other thing that is stressful,” Dana Hovious said.

Statewide assessments such as the IREAD, ILEARN and ISTEP are required this year, despite calls from parents and even some school officials to cancel standardized testing like last spring.

Hovious says teachers have been forced to cut or pare down important instruction for the remote format, which she says leaves kids like her son, Billy Vottom, underprepared and anxious.

“I've been really nervous because I don’t know what they’re going to do for testing this year,” he said.

Monroe County school administrators have questioned how this year’s assessment provide reliable information about students’ learning.

But federal and state education officials say the opposite, that learning loss makes standardized testing more important than ever.

“We need to have a measure of where students are right now,” Indiana Department of Education spokesperson Holly Lawson said.“There’s no doubt that the last year has been challenging for everyone — educators, students, parents.”

She said this year’s assessments are for gathering information, and the state is working to avoid penalizing students or schools for their performance.

Indiana schools will receive about $1 billion in the second round of federal CARES Act funding. Many districts plan to use the relief package for learning recovery. Lawson said assessment data can be used to identify the students who need the most support.

“It’s critical that we’re addressing educational inequities that just have been expanded even further,” Lawson said. We’ve always seen that students of color and students from low incomes face more challenges than other students.”

Jessica Calarco is an IU associate professor in sociology, and she researches inequalities in education and family life. She says the state should prioritize measuring whether schools are providing adequate support and empathetic instruction, rather than what students have learned in the past year.

“There’s reason to be highly suspicious of the value of standardized testing, particularly in a moment where students are facing such serious trauma in the wake of the pandemic,” Calarco said. “Before we even think about testing students’ learning, we have to think about whether students are in a position to be able to learn.”

More than a third of parents reported someone in their household contracted the virus, and about 16 percent reported that a close family member or friend was hospitalized or died, according to Calarco’s research from December.

If the goal is to measure students’ learning, Calarco suggests surveying teachers and parents about the progress their students have made and the challenges they’ve faced.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here

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