The State Board of Education met today for its regular business meeting, the first for the newly appointed members. While part of the meeting focused on thanking past members and introducing new ones, there was a little business to address.
After a year of dramatic changes to the education landscape in Indiana (new standards, new assessment, and a new A-F accountability system), it seems the board will now focus on less dramatic but still vitally important issues like failing schools, school funding and maintaining the assessment system for both students and schools in the state.
At today’s meeting, the board addressed one aspect of the state’s new budget which allows school districts to choose their own formative test for use throughout the school year.
As a reminder, a formative assessment is a tool teachers use throughout the year to periodically test a student’s skills. This test is different from the summative ISTEP+ test, which is given once a year to test what a student learned throughout the year.
Currently, the state provides schools with the Acuity test for third through eighth graders and the mCLASS assessment for measuring literacy in grades K-2.
If a school chooses not to use one of those tests they can purchase another test but it comes out of their budget. Many school districts in Indiana use NWEA as formative assessment.
Under the new legislation, school corporations can apply for a grant through the state and use that money to purchase whatever test they want.
This is something board member and Avon teacher Sarah O’Brien advocated for and is happy to see moving forward.
“I think that different tests work well for different populations, different curricular styles, different approaches,” O’Brien says. “I think it’s more so that we’re allowing schools to use what works for them instead of mandating that there’s a one-size-fits-all that we assume will work for independent pockets of students.”
One of the concerns about switching to this format was that smaller school districts who aren’t used to negotiating contracts with testing companies will struggle through the process. Ritz and Department of Education staff members say they will host webinars to help school officials through this process.
At the INSBOE meeting in July, the board will likely see a plan for how much money districts could receive under the grant program to purchase the tests.