Gov. Holcomb asks for reprieve for schools, teachers after dip in test results

Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers State of the State address on Jan. 15, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Results from the state’s new standardized test won’t be released for another week, but the governor is already asking for a reprieve on behalf of schools and teachers.

In a statement released Monday morning, Gov. Eric Holcomb said results of the 2018-2019 ILEARN test will show a decrease compared with the ISTEP+ test it replaced.

He’s asking Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick to support his request that the General Assembly take action to ensure that the lower scores don’t have an adverse effect on teacher evaluations and school assessment grades.

The ILEARN test was administered for the first time in the spring. The governor hopes the one-year reprieve will help ease the transition to the new test from the ISTEP+ test.

Here’s the governor’s statement:

“The results of the 2018-19 ILEARN proficiency test are scheduled to be released next week. The results will show a decrease compared to the previously administered ISTEP+ test. Since this is the first year of the ILEARN assessment, I will ask Superintendent McCormick to support my request that the General Assembly take action to hold schools harmless so the test scores do not have an adverse impact on teacher evaluations and schools’ letter grades for the 2018-19 school year. This action will ease the transition to ILEARN, which is a student assessment that allows Indiana to comply with federal ESSA requirements.

“I appreciate the dedicated work of Hoosier educators. Bringing consistency and continuity to how we measure student progress and preparing students for post-secondary success is a shared and important goal.”

McCormick released a statement about the scores, which are set to be released Sept. 4:

“The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has been actively advocating for a new, modernized, state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent. As communicated last week, in response to the embargoed ILEARN results, we are proposing legislative action addressing the negative impact on educators, schools, districts, and communities.

“Over the past two weeks, districts and schools received embargoed ILEARN scores. When compared to past ISTEP+ scores, the scores for Indiana’s new assessment, ILEARN, indicated lower achievement levels across the state in both English/language arts and mathematics. The combination of the rigors associated with this newly aligned college and career readiness assessment, national normative data, and the defined established performance cuts all contributed to the lower performance levels. While frustrating, performance dips at some level were expected, as previously experienced in 2014-2015 with the onset of the then newly implemented ISTEP+.

On Wednesday, McCormick issued this updated statement:

“While the 2019 ILEARN results do not provide a true reflection of the performance of Indiana’s schools, they do once again show us the importance of developing a modernized state legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent. With this in mind, the Department will propose the following legislative actions: place a ‘hold harmless’ year on 2018-2019 letter grades, pause intervention timelines for all schools, and provide the State Board of Education with emergency rulemaking authority to review and reestablish the state accountability system. The success and wellbeing of our students, educators, and schools are dependent upon these actions.”

Several lawmakers expressed their support for the governor’s idea, including House Speaker Brian Bosma:

“As the state recently transitioned from ISTEP to ILEARN, we understood scores would be lower since students and schools needed time to adjust to the new exam. I agree with Governor Holcomb’s call to hold harmless our hard-working teachers and schools during this critical transition year. We will work closely with our House and Senate colleagues, and the governor to continue supporting Hoosier students, teachers and schools.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray also supported the move:

“A strong accountability system is important for our students and schools, but we must be sure that the system is fair.

“I believe in our teachers and schools and know they are working hard to benefit our kids. As such, I’m in favor of delaying the impact of the ILEARN scores for a year as schools and teachers continue to adjust to this new exam.”

If the legislature goes along with Holcomb’s recommendation, this would be the second time in five years that schools have been held harmless for standardized testing. In 2016, after a more rigorous version of ISTEP+ was implemented, schools were not penalized based on the results.

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