Use cut-score delay to explain test changes

Here’s a suggestion for Indiana education officials now that the State Board of Education has delayed setting ISTEP+ cut scores that will dramatically lower grades for many schools.

Let people know what you’re doing. Explain why a more rigorous grading system is in the best interest of Hoosier children. Spread the word now so parents, teachers and others won’t be caught off guard when test scores and school grades are announced.

Because we’re talking about some significant changes. Barely half of Indiana’s seventh- and eighth-graders will pass the ISTEP+ math exam. Over 50 percent of schools may get Ds or Fs. About 100,000 more students will fall short of passing the tests.

The board was scheduled to approve the cut scores Wednesday, but it postponed making a decision. The reason: Indiana Department of Education staff allegedly didn’t forward an Oct. 2 report to board members, staff and experts until Tuesday night.

The report, by Dong-In Kim, a research scientist with testing contractor CTB/McGraw-Hill, compared online and pencil-and-paper versions of the test and flagged numerous questions for which it appeared one was more difficult than the other. Marc Lotter, spokesman for the board, said it couldn’t set a single cut score for passing the test, since some students took each version.

“We have to treat students fairly, regardless of which version of the test they took,” he said.

The situation produced finger-pointing, with board members complaining the department hadn’t kept them and their staff in the loop. But the board may still be able to approve the cut scores this month and keep the accountability process on track.

Maybe the board and the department should consider the delay a gift – a window of time to plan how to explain to Indiana communities why their local schools, which were deemed exemplary in 2014, are seriously in need of improvement in 2015.

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5 thoughts on “Use cut-score delay to explain test changes

  1. Spot on. This is a great point. While the impact of this is potentially big, the fallout doesn’t necessarily have to be if they’re proactive in providing adequate information to schools and parents. Instead, it will likely be up to schools to answer for this as they try to inform, defend, and repair their tarnished images. I don’t envy their position. I hope IDOE and the SBOE listen to recommendations like this. “An ounce of prevention,” as they say….

  2. I have no idea how a “more rigorous grading system” is in the best interests of Hoosier children. I want resources, not rigor. I want art teachers, music teachers, well-resourced libraries in each school with a certified librarian in each, p.e. teachers, and ample recess and time for lunch. I want nutritious lunches and lots of field trips. This rigorous grading system is only going to fuel calls for privatization of public resources and line the pockets of testing companies. At the rate we’re going, the kind of rigor we’re going to have in schools is rigor mortis.

    • Unfortunately, it seems as though some individuals at the state house are making efforts to drive all education towards privatization. This delay in scoring has scared just about every teacher in the school corporation where I teach. I just can’t wait to see what the new test this year is like… who knows how long many of us are going to keep fighting through all of this.

  3. Thanks Steve! From this educators perspective, the tests warp curricula, decrease creative learning opportunities, trick beginning readers with distractor answers, have no diagnostic value, increase dropout rates, increase school to prison pipeline rates, increase juvenile crime rates, are inappropriate for children with disabilities and mental illness, increase student disengagement and are correllate with trends in young Americans lack of civic engagement and decrease in voter turnout.

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