It has been clear since April that the disruptions of at least 78,200 Indiana students’ online ISTEP+ exams would have a ripple effect through Indiana’s rating systems for schools and teachers, both of which depend on the test results.
Some of the impacts came into sharper focus Monday. Take, for instance, Indiana’s A-F grading system rating schools — the model docks schools’ grades if not enough of their students participate in the exam.
But state superintendent Glenda Ritz announced Monday she would waive those penalties. In other words, if a student’s test was interrupted and their score gets thrown out, it won’t count against their school’s “participation” score.
Ritz said this during the same statehouse press conference in which she announced a testing expert — the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment’s Richard Hill — will take the next four to five weeks “to determine whether the testing interruptions experienced by students invalidated high stakes ISTEP+ test scores.”
She also made clear that state officials will issue A-F letter grade ratings for schools based on the model laid out by former state superintendent Tony Bennett. Indiana General Assembly members passed a law this session asking state education officials to rewrite that model by November 15.
But during the press conference, Ritz fielded questions about how schools can even receive letter grades, given the extent of the disruptions.
Ritz said she couldn’t speculate whether there was a scenario in which a school might not receive an A-F rating if too many of its students scores were thrown out because of the testing issues:
I’m going to further review policy pieces after I get the information from Dr. Hill. I’m not going to predetermine anything. We have to see how things work out statistically. We’re going to be looking at every student’s scores in the pool that we’re asking Dr. Hill to do. I understand there may be situations in which I’m going to need to address at another point. But I’m not going to speculate how that works.
We don’t even have what I call a comprehensive view on interruptions for the students. Some students may have been interrupted for a few seconds. Some may have been interrupted for thirty seconds. Some may have been interrupted for longer periods of time. An interruption in that 78,000 that we handed out, that was anywhere from a few seconds of interruption to long interruptions. So statistically, we have to look at students scores and see how they did and see what the impact is.
In that press conference, Ritz also said the Department of Education will offer guidance for how local school districts should handle rating their teachers’ performance — ISTEP+ results are an integral part of that too:
Teacher evaluation and compensation is a local matter, although I’ll be giving guidance from the Department of Education. One such guidance will be to lower the significance of the ISTEP test in regard to teacher evaluation and then letting locals decide about the percentage of that significance on their own. Also, I’ll be giving districts options after the validity process is ended to perhaps have them consider the data itself in looking at how they want to determine teacher evaluation going forward.
Few educators have said they can trust the results of the exam. One State Board of Education member, a teacher, said he felt the data would be “tainted.” Fort Wayne Community Schools officials have refused to accept the exam results without a third-party review.