April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Area superintendents dispute ISTEP accuracy

By HSJ Online [email protected]

Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools Superintendent Shawn Price is one of a large group of area school superintendents who signed onto a letter to state legislators and the Indiana Department of Transportation this week, protesting problems with the state ISTEP exam.

Other area schools signing the letter include the superintendents of Decatur, Jennings, Brown county schools, as well as Seymour, Crothersville, Brownstown and Greensburg districts.

Price gave a copy of the letter to HSJ Online for publication:

Letter to the Legislators of Indiana and State Board of Education:

As the superintendents of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS) District VIII Schools we want to express concerns about the results of the past two years of ISTEP testing and how these questionable test results can be used to label our schools. As our parents and community members know, across the state our local public schools provide the curricular framework for over one million students to be successful in today's competitive workforce.

To be clear, drastic changes were made to the ISTEP in each of the last two years, and overall across the state the test scores show a significant drop from the 2013-2014 scores in all tested subjects and at all tested grade levels. We feel that these new tests were developed hastily and do not accurately measure the students' ability and their mastery of the Indiana Standards. Additionally, we know that our teachers were not given ample time to adjust curriculum and instruction to prepare students for these more rigorous assessments. We believe that changes in the test structure along with arbitrarily set cut scores are producing the significant drops in passing rates.  

As school leaders, we are all for accountability, however, we strongly believe that the methods used to provide this accountability must be reliable and valid, and must go beyond one test score. We further believe that educators must be given a strong voice in developing a new accountability system that will give a more accurate picture of the quality of work being done by the students, teachers and staff members in our public schools.

In the meantime, as the work to develop a new accountability system is still in progress, we implore our elected officials to not use the results of this flawed ISTEP assessment to place inaccurate labels (letter grades) on our public schools. The A-F grading system needs to be paused and schools need to be provided with a hold harmless provision from the results of the 2015-2016 ISTEP, similar to what was done last year.

Refusing to provide a hold harmless provision fails to take into account the fact that for the second year in a row, ISTEP results have not been released in a timely manner, which significantly reduces the opportunity to provide remediation to improve student performance. Additionally, using this flawed test to place inaccurate labels on our schools will negatively impact the perception of Indiana communities and the education we provide for our students. Our students and parents deserve better. This will also continue the false negative rhetoric surrounding public education which is contributing to the severe shortage of teacher candidates we are experiencing in our state.

In closing, we firmly believe that these test scores do not accurately reflect our students' yearly achievement and the great job our teachers do each day in the classroom. These test scores should not be used to give a letter grade to our schools or school districts, and our elected officials need to re-evaluate what impact this flawed assessment system is having on public education. A hold harmless provision from the 2015-16 ISTEP results for our schools and students is the right thing to do, and we call upon our state leaders to take a stance in support of public education in Indiana.

Signed: District VIII Superintendents

Tom Hunter -- Greensburg Schools

Rob Moorhead -- South Ripley Schools

Johnny Budd -- Decatur County Schools

Mark Eastridge -- South Harrison Schools

Trevor Jones -- SW Jefferson County Schools

Andrew Melin -- Greater Clark Schools

Bruce Hibbard -- New Albany/Floyd County Schools

Chad Schenck -- West Clark Schools

Terry Sargent -- Jennings County Schools

Marc Slaton -- Scott County #2 Schools

Greg Walker -- Brownstown Schools

Steve Morris -- Lanesville Schools

Tim Taylor -- JCD Schools

Andrew Jackson -- Sunman Dearborn Schools

Branden Roeder -- Rising Sun Schools

Debbie Howell -- Franklin County Schools

Ginger Bolinger -- Madison Cons. Schools

John Thomas -- North Harrison Schools

Karl Galey -- Lawrenceburg Schools

Keith Nance -- West Washington Schools

Lynn Reed -- Salem Schools

Paul Ketcham -- Milan Schools

Mike Jones -- Switzerland County Schools

Robert Anderson -- Scott County #1 Schools

Roger Bane -- Medora Schools

Dennis Stockdale -- East Washington Schools

Laura Hammack -- Brown County Schools

Shawn Price -- Flat Rock- Hawcreek Schools

Rob Hooker -- Seymour Schools

Terry Goodin -- Crothersville Schools[[In-content Ad]]