Monday, December 5, 2016

An Open Letter to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education

Honorable Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Members of the State Board of Education:

The superintendents of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS) District I School Corporations want to make you aware of some serious concerns we have regarding the status and use of the current assessment system in Indiana. While we are firmly committed to accountability at every level, we believe the high stakes ISTEP+ assessment system that is used to measure student achievement, evaluate teacher performance and effectiveness, and grade our schools, does not accurately reflect the teaching and learning that takes place every day in our public schools.

Whether the state continues to mandate ISTEP+ or a similar test by a different name, the use of a one-time test does not and cannot accurately reflect the achievement and growth of our students, the performance of our teachers and quality of our schools. Our teachers regularly monitor the learning taking place in their classrooms via locally developed and nationally recognized assessments that provide immediate results which are used to drive instruction. Receiving ISTEP+ test results six months – or more – after the test was given is almost useless. 

In each of the past two school years, significant changes were made to the current ISTEP+ test. The rush to make these changes, without providing educators ample time to “retool” curriculum and instruction in the classroom, resulted in lower test scores across the state in all tested subjects at all tested grade levels and an unnecessary decline in school and school corporation grades across Indiana.

Inconsistencies within the test itself make it very difficult, if not impossible, to use those test results in a meaningful way. Attempting to compare test scores and passing rates (i.e. student achievement) from one year to the next, especially when the spring 2016 test changed significantly from the previous year, is problematic at best.

For the reasons stated above, we support HEA 1395 that called for the end of ISTEP+ at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. It is extremely disappointing that the committee charged with finding and recommending a replacement for the ISTEP+ fiasco chose not to make a recommendation that would resolve issues associated with our broken and irreparable assessment system. Reportedly, several meaningful options were not allowed to be presented and/or discussed by the committee during their deliberations. If true, such actions are sad and frustrating. Maintaining the status quo with ISTEP+ will only continue to project a tainted and inaccurate assessment of the achievements of our students, teachers and public schools.

If the objective of our state’s high stakes accountability system is to accurately report student achievement to the public, then the data from the currently flawed system must not be used. We respectfully request our elected officials and members of the State Board of Education to ignore the most recent results of the totally broken ISTEP+ assessment and not use them to place letter grades on our schools. The A-F grading system needs to be suspended again and schools need to be provided with a hold harmless provision regarding the results of the 2015- 2016 ISTEP+ assessment, similar to what was done last year.

Signed: District I Superintendents

Michelle Riise Argos Community Schools
Nathan Kleefisch MSD of Boone Township
James White Bremen Public Schools
Lucinda Douglass Caston School Corporation
Teresa Eineman Crown Point Community School Corporation
Chuck Kitchell Culver Community Schools Corporation
David Pruis Duneland School Corporation
Paige McNulty School City of East Chicago
Rod Gardin East Porter School Corporation
Dan Foster Eastern Pulaski Community School Corporation
Pete Morikis Griffith Public Schools
Walter Watkins School City of Hammond
Tom Taylor Hanover Community School Corporation
Brian Smith School Town of Highland
Peggy Buffington School City of Hobart
Aaron Case Kankakee Valley Schools
A.J. Gappa Knox Community School Corporation
Larry Veracco Lake Central School Corporation
Sharon Johnson-Shirley Lake Ridge Schools
Tom Cripliver Lake Station Community Schools
Mark Francesconi LaPorte Community School Corporation
Jeff Studebaker Merrillville Community School Corporation
Jeff Hendrix School Town of Munster
Curtiss Strietelmeier MSD of New Durham Township
Paul White New Prairie United School Corporation
Annette Zupin North Judson-San Pierre Schools
Destin Haas North Newton School Corporation
Donald Harman Oregon-Davis School Corporation
Daniel Tyree Plymouth Community School Corporation
Richard Weigel Portage Township Schools
Stacey Schmidt Porter Township School Corporation
Ned Speicher Rensselaer Central School Corporation
Steve Disney River Forest Community School Corporation
Jana Vance Rochester Community School Corporation
Linda Wiltfong South Central Community School Corporation
Kenneth Rudnick South Newton School Corporation
Debra Howe Tri-Creek School Corporation
Donna Burroughs Triton School Corporation
Tim Somers Tri-Township Consolidated School Corporation
John Hunter Union Township School Corporation
Ric Frataccia Valparaiso Community Schools
Don Street West Central School Corporation
Cynthia Scroggins School City of Whiting

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