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A Conversation With State Superintendent Tony Bennett

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett

Photo: Indiana Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett

This week on Noon Edition, we sat down with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and discussed the state of Indiana schools. You can listen above and then tell us what you thought of the program by submitting a comment.  Here is a list of just a few things touched upon in today’s show:

  • Changes to teacher licensing laws
  • Whether new licensing laws would create a short-term shortage of teachers
  • A Harvard study addressing many of the concerns raised by the Indiana Department of Education
  • Teacher performance and evaluation
  • The need to measure a child’s growth instead of their achievement
  • Helen Gunn

    In justifying the huge resources spent on the ISTEP, Tony Bennett pointed to high stakes tests such as the SAT that we all take to get into college. We do not take that test every year. Not all students take that test. Before NCLB, Indiana assessed students using ISTEP at the end of 3rd and 8th grades. Now we assess EVERY YEAR with an instrument of limited validity. The expense of this is huge and not justified.

    In preparation for the ISTEP, I've gone over the constructed response portions of our test with my classes, and have found inconsistencies in scoring. On one constructed response problem, two students with IDENTICAL responses to questions received different scores. One student received 2 CR points, the other received 1 CR points. The “scale score” difference between those two point scores is large. Furthermore, higher level thinking is penalized on the ISTEP test. Bennett's assertion that the test is highly rated nationally merely speaks to the poor quality of assessment nationally.

    If one teacher can find this many errors, how in the world can we have confidence in the validity of the test to measure what you say you are measuring. High stakes testing is touted as educational accountability. However, nobody holds the testers accountable. Bennett's approach is misguided and damaging to schools and children.

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  • Della Collins Cook

    Superintendent Bennett congratulates himself on Indiana's place in the forefront of outcomes testing. Nationally K-12 instruction has been oriented toward testing as if testing were the goal of education. We need to reorient our schools toward building competencies in reading, math, sciences, and languages. So few students come to college with a sense of their academic skills as tools that can be used to solve problems, explore issues, and share opinions. Worse, they cannot use their skills as a means of enjoying the world in the broadest sense. What we learn in school can open our minds to the wonders of everything from natural history to economics, from music to math. Listeners–and perhaps Mr. Bennett–may want to read Stanley Fish's recent column, “A Classical Education: Back to the Future”, in the New York Times on-line for a very different view of what pre-college education should accomplish.

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