IN Focus: DeVos responds to questions over Indiana’s testing troubles

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INDIANAPOLIS - Education secretary Betsy DeVos made another visit to Indiana, where she was faced with questions about the state's recent testing troubles which could essentially lead to last year's ILEARN test results being tossed out by state officials.

The new exam complies with the federal government's requirement that every state have a standardized test for reading and math, but the scores showed most Indiana students failing the test.

State education leaders say the low scores don't reflect the achievements and readiness of our state's students. In fact, they want Indiana lawmakers to take a closer look at the test and possibly toss out this year's scores by essentially holding schools harmless from the results.

Secretary DeVos said many states are in a transition to make things work for the best.

"The bottom line is it's good to measure and know where things are," said DeVos. "But what we are really focused on from the department's perspective is ensuring we're there as a partner to help states implement what they're doing on behalf of students."

Fewer than half of Indiana students met expected achievement standards. The results showed 47.9% of students in grades 3-8 were proficient in language arts while 47.8% were proficient in math. The numbers were 64.6% for language arts and 58.9% for math under ISTEP+ last year.

The state’s final figures showed only 37.1% of students passed both language arts and math standards. For ISTEP+, 50.7% of students passed both portions of the test.

You can find the numbers below:

The Indiana Department of Education said last week that scores for the ILEARN (Indiana Learning Evaluation and Readiness) would dip compared to ISTEP+ results last year.

Gov. Holcomb has asked the legislature to hold schools harmless for the low scores since this is the first year for the test. State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick supported the governor’s position, saying school accountability grades and teacher evaluations shouldn’t be tied to this year’s scores.

The state expected a decline in overall scores for the test, which was designed to focus on rigorous college-and-career readiness (CCR) standards.

“While the 2019 ILEARN results do not provide a true reflection of the performance of Indiana’s schools, they do once again show us the importance of developing a modernized state legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent,” McCormick said in a statement.

“With this in mind, the Department will propose the following legislative actions: place a ‘hold harmless’ year on 2017-2018 letter grades, pause intervention timelines for all schools, and provide the State Board of Education with emergency rulemaking authority to review and reestablish the state accountability system. The success and well-being of our schools and educators is dependent upon these actions.”

The General Assembly mandated ILEARN in 2017 as a replacement for ISTEP+. It assesses “CCR content standards in English/language arts and mathematics in grades 3-8, science in grades 4 and 6, high school biology, social studies in grade 5, and U.S. government in high school.”

During a meeting earlier this month, the State Board of Education decided it will not issue A-F letter grades until the General Assembly takes up the governor’s request. In a statement, the group said the Board will hold a special meeting to assign school letter grades after the state legislature has taken action.

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