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.