IUPUI faculty member and Indianapolis Recorder columnist Marshawn Wolley makes a provocative statement in a recent piece on Indiana’s 2019 ILEARN results:
“It just doesn’t seem to matter when Black students fail state standardized tests.”
He’s got a point. Everyone has been up in arms about the steep drop in proficiency rates that resulted when Indiana shifted from its former ISTEP test to the new ILEARN assessment. But very little attention has been paid to the gap in proficiency between black and white students.
Indiana education officials took a step forward by deciding in 2015 to count growth as equal to proficiency when using test scores to calculate school A-to-F school grades. Now it sounds like members of the State Board of Education want to turn back the clock.
At least five of the 11 members said last week that they favor giving more weight to proficiency – the number of students who pass state-mandated tests – than to year-to-year growth.
“I think we reached some consensus on some core values. Proficiency is more important than growth,” board member David Freitas said, according a story in to the Indianapolis Star.
“Growth, to me, is much less important than proficiency,” added B.J. Watts, another board member. Members Tony Walker, Byron Ernest and Kathleen Mote agreed, according to the Star.
Freitas and Watts made the same argument but didn’t prevail when the board approved the current A-to-F formula. Mote and Ernest weren’t on the board in at the time. Walker missed the meeting.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick favors keeping the equal weight for growth and proficiency, said Adam Baker, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education. But she would probably agree to a formula that gave a little more weight to proficiency than to growth, he said.
Until 2014-15, Indiana relied heavily on test-score proficiency in determining grades; growth wasn’t a factor. The result was what you’d expect: Low-poverty schools reliably were rewarded with As. High-poverty schools struggled to avoid getting Fs. Schools with poor students were labeled as failing schools. Continue reading