Experts say Indiana students aren’t as smart as they’ve been led to believe

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INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 30, 2015) – Indiana lawmakers received an alarming assessment on the state’s ISTEP test this week.

As lawmakers take a serious look at the state’s standardized test, national education experts described an “honesty gap” between reality and what students are being led to believe.

“It’s a warning bell, right?” said Achieve President Michael Cohen. “It’s basically a signal that someone’s wrong.”

The non-profit, founded by a group of bipartisan governors and business leaders, has been working with Indiana policymakers for 15 years.

Recently Achieve looked at test results in all 50 states and compared them against the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card.

In Indiana, experts found one of the largest gaps in the nation between what ISTEP deemed proficient compared to national standards.

PROFICIENT ON 2013-14 ISTEP PROFICIENT ON 2013 NAEP GAP
4th grade reading 86% 38% 48%
4th grade math 83% 52% 31%
8th grade reading 76% 35% 41%
8th grade math 81% 38% 43%

“What I told legislators is they’re basically misleading students and parents about their performance,” Cohen said. “They’re telling them they’re proficient when in all likelihood they’re not very well prepared to learn the material at the next grade level, nor are they prepared for success in post-secondary education.”

The state’s interim committee on education is debating the future of the ISTEP, including whether to scrap the test all together.

“It is a little disconcerting in terms of transparency and how we communicate with parents,” State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) said.

Officials with the Department of Education, though, are a bit more hopeful.

“One of the things we’re focusing on, as you can imagine, is college and career readiness,” Michele Walker said at a meeting earlier this month. Walker works with the Department of Education.

State education officials acknowledged a need for more rigorous benchmarks, ones they said should be reflective in the new statewide standards for the ISTEP, which were implemented last year.

The 2014-15 testing results have yet to be made public, which education experts are eager to see.

“One is has this gap between the percentage of students who are proficient on the Indiana test and the national test, has that gap closed considerably?” Cohen said. “If it is, you’re moving in the right direction.”

The 2014-15 ISTEP results have been delayed, most likely until December.

Already State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has publicly said the new rigorous standards will probably equate to lower test scores.

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