The stakes are the problem

Indiana’s ILEARN scores have been made public, and the freakout is underway. I guess we should be grateful. A decade ago, business leaders and newspaper editorial writers might have pointed to the scores as evidence that schools were broken. Now the consensus seems to be that the test is broken.

Here’s another possibility. Maybe the problem isn’t with the test. Maybe the problem is what we do with it. Maybe it’s the high stakes, not the testing, that we should reject.

Results for the new ILEARN assessment were released today during a meeting of the State Board of Education. As expected, the rate at which students were found to be proficient was considerably lower than the passing rate on ISTEP, Indiana’s previous test.

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What it takes: integration, funding, preschool

Research shows what it takes to make our public schools work, labor economist Rucker C. Johnson writes in his recent book “Children of the Dream.” It takes racial and socioeconomic integration. Funding that is abundant and equitably distributed. And a focus on high-quality preschool.

Children of the Dream book coverBut just one of these strategies won’t get the job done – it takes all of them working in concert. “The synergy of policies working together plays an enormous role in their success,” Johnson writes.

Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works” is an unusual book, written for a general audience but packed with original and eye-opening research findings. It conveys a hopeful message: We can make education work and we don’t need to look for alternatives to public schools.

Johnson is a highly regarded economist who holds the title Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote the book with journalist Alexander Nazaryan.

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McCormick: It’s time to change school grading system

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick is tapping into the alarm over results of Indiana’s new ILEARN standardized assessment to call for changes in how the state evaluates schools.

She said the test scores “once again show us the importance of developing a modernized, state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate and transparent.”

Flores, McCormick and Paino

Jennifer McCormick, center, with Department of Education assessment director Charity Flores and accountability director Maggie Paino.

State officials will release 2019 ILEARN results Wednesday at a meeting of the State Board of Education. It’s expected that the percentage of students who scored at the proficient level on the assessment is considerably lower than the number who passed the former ISTEP exam in 2018.

In a statement and at a Statehouse news conference, McCormick said she will call on the legislature to: Continue reading

ILEARN results: déjà vu all over again

Here we go again. Indiana has a new standardized test, the results sound bad, and educators are calling on the state to hold off on imposing consequences on schools or teachers using new test scores.

Today, Gov. Eric Holcomb joined the call for a “pause” in accountability based on the tests. House and Senate leaders concurred, which means it’s almost certain to happen. Results from the new assessment, called ILEARN, are scheduled to be made public at the Sept. 4 State Board of Education meeting.

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Reconstruction and public schools

The 1619 Project, the New York Times magazine’s special issue on the history and legacy of slavery in America, includes poignant details and powerful insights on nearly every page. For me, one of the most meaningful passages is in the powerful introductory essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

She’s writing about Reconstruction, the brief period after the Civil War when African-Americans, including formerly enslaved people, were elected to Congress and to state legislatures. Black office-holders, she writes, joined with white Republicans to adopt “the most egalitarian state constitutions the South had ever seen,” enacting fair taxes and bans on discrimination. Continue reading

Proposal would keep Hoosiers in the dark

State Rep. Jeff Ellington wants to change the law so people who donate to political campaigns no longer need to reveal their addresses. This is a truly bad idea. Indiana should be collecting and disclosing more, not less, information about the people who finance elections.

Ellington, a Bloomington Republican, is all worked up about the idea that people could “target” individuals who have donated to certain candidates. He’s mimicking the right-wing outrage machine, which has spun into overdrive since Texas Congressman Juaquin Castro tweeted the names of 44 residents in his district who contributed the maximum allowed to President Donald Trump.

Ellington told the Bloomington Herald-Times that the tweet “will likely get someone hurt.”

News flash: Castro didn’t disclose the identity of the donors. The Federal Election Commission did, just as it has disclosed campaign finance information for decades. Anyone could look it up and share it.

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