By Makenna Mays, Staff Writer

Roughly a week ago ILEARN scores were released to the public with less than half of Indiana students in grades 3-8 passing in the math and language arts categories.

ILEARN is the replacement for ISTEP, and it is a computer-adaptive test that is based on the new college and career readiness education standards. The test is designed to get increasingly more difficult when a student answers questions correctly.

Because of the low scores statewide, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, as well as Governor Eric J. Holcomb, have asked for hold-harmless legislation. That means if the letter grade would drop for the corporation, it would revert back to the previous letter grade.

“I think it's something that needs to happen, but it's pretty frustrating from a teacher standpoint and an administrative standpoint,” said Franklin County Community School Corporation Assistant Superintendent Tammy Chavis.

Chavis addressed some of the issues regarding ILEARN at the Monday, September 9 board meeting. She said teachers spent a lot of time and effort preparing tand training to become test coordinators and administrators. A lot of prep work is involved and some of that work is even done without compensation.

Chavis also gave a history of some of the issues students and corporations across the state have had with standardized testing. In 2011 and 2012, there were multiple issues with online testing. Ten thousand students had technology issues in 2011 and 9,000 in 2012. In 2013, there were 78,000 students who had test interruptions and were kicked offline. During that year, letter grades for corporations were not released until December.

In 2015, the state adopted the college and career readiness standards they are tested on and saw a significant drop in scores. There were also some scoring issues and that was the first time the Indiana General Assembly released the hold-harmless legislation.

In 2018, the state partnered with a new vendor, and they experienced grading problems for 27,000 10th graders. This year they again partnered with a new vendor, and everything went smoothly with very few problems.

There was a significant drop in test scores not only in the FCCSC but statewide. The Indiana State Board of Education met and voted 10-0 to delay the release of school letter grades. Typically, the corporation would have received grades in October, but now they are looking at a month delay.

Chavis said they will have teachers who do not have a final evaluation score or a summit evaluation reading from last year. This means they will not know if they are going to get a pay raise or qualify for teacher appreciation grant money because they don't have a final evaluation.

Corporation wide, they were tested on the exact same standards. In 2018, in language arts in the FCCSC, they were above the state average at grades 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7; this year they were above in grades 6 and 8.

“I think it was a test that our students aren't used to,” said Chavis.

Apart from being an adaptive test, there were also changes in the format.

In 2018, in math, they also tested above the state average in grades 3, 4, 5, and this year they tested above in grades 3 and 6.

In grade 6, at Laurel Elementary School, they scored 54.8 percent in language arts and a 58.5 percent at Franklin County Middle School. Mt. Carmel School scored 84.4 percent in math at grade which was the highest score in any grade level.

The overall state of Indiana passing both was 37.1 percent and 18,000 students took the assessment. FCCSC was at 35.4 percent which is below the state average.

“I think there's a problem with the state test when we're sitting around here talking about state averages and they're in the 30, 40 and 50 percent and we're excited that 54 percent of our students passed a particular section,” said FCCSC Superintendent Dr. Debbie Howell.

Howell said 50 percent is not good, and when your state average is below 50 percent, something is not right. She said she is

not saying they shouldn't be tested or held accountable, but the system is not working.

A big question is why does the state continue to do standardized testing, and the answer is money according to Chavis. The state of Indiana gets $1.1 billion from the federal government to do standardized assessments.

“It's a money-making thing, and the kids are the ones that suffer for it and the teachers,” said school board trustee Rick Gill.