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June 10, 2014

Turmoil over testing still with us

Turmoil that has marked education is far from over

In a year that Indiana education and legislative leaders decided to drop the state’s commitment to Common Core education standards adopted by more than 40 other states, it has been difficult at times to understand just what is going on. And just when it seemed that the issue was settling down with new state-written education standards, the federal Department of Education stepped in and said not so fast. In fact, Indiana is faced now with the possibility of losing millions in federal funds if it doesn’t comply with a federal directive.

This past week, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said she had been informed by federal officials that if Indiana wants to keep its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act — and the money that goes with it — it must create a new ISTEP test. Indiana had planned to do that anyway, but not so soon as the feds want it done. This is happening in part because Indiana dropped out of Common Core.

Federal officials warned Indiana last month that the state’s coveted waiver of NCLB was at risk — along with millions in Title 1 federal money because of concerns about problems in monitoring low-performing schools, as well as difficulties evaluating the performance of teachers and principals.

It was reported recently that the state must provide Hoosier students with a new, more rigorous standardized test in the spring of 2015, a year ahead of when Indiana intended to introduce a new test. The state plan was to begin the new test in the spring of 2016, giving Indiana schools and students a year to prepare for the new test, which will require students to show how they reached an answer.

Ritz predicted the testing would show a drop in student performance because it is a more rigorous challenge. No doubt, some critics of public education will use that expected drop in scores as reason to claim that the new standards are a failure.

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