The Indiana Department of Education recently announced that there will be delays in announcing the results of the ISTEP exam.
Pearson, the testing company that administers the ISTEP, is having difficulties with the grading of a graphing question and student responses in grades 3-8 and 10. Pearson claims only a small number of students are actually affected by the issues with the questions.
This is far from the first time the results of the ISTEP have been delayed. In the past, the test scores had been delayed for different reasons; however, the end result for schools, students, and families is still the same, lack of clarity.
This is not okay.
There are a number of reasons why it is imperative for state test scores results to be announced in a timely manner:
Tests scores decide school ratings
Do you think it is relevant for families to know the quality of a school? Most people would say the answer to that question is yes. In most states, ratings are based in large part on the state test scores. This is the case in Indiana. The state’s A-F rating system depends on ISTEP scores and when the latter is delayed, the former is also pushed back.
Assessments are supposed to inform teaching
A state test is by definition, an end of the year summative assessment, but a school can still use the results to make changes and improve for the next year. If a school knows that only 20% of its students passed the math test they might invest more resources into math instruction for the next year. As it stands now, many schools don’t get this data until months into the next school year.
Now, no good school should depend solely on the state test scores to know where their students are, but if the state is going to spend millions of dollars on a test, schools ought to be able to use them effectively.
Families have a right to know
Schools give students a report card for a reason; they have a right to know their progress. This doesn’t change with state test. The scores may not count for a grade in a class, but they are still scores that follow students. A mother probably would think her son failing the English/Language-Arts portion of the ISTEP is relevant information. If families don’t get these scores in a timely fashion, they can’t make the necessary interventions. Whether that be getting their child a tutor or completely changing schools if the results are completely unacceptable.
Standardized tests are obviously an important accountability metric for states. However, it is more than that to schools, students, and families. The state needs to recognize that and choose test administrators that do too.