INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly may consider a proposal this session to scale back standardized testing.
According to State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), the House education committee will discuss a plan to require standardized testing only for students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 11.
All other grade levels would be tested by the state in samples, meaning random schools and classes would be selected each year for the exams, he said.
Currently, students in grades 3 through 8 take the ILEARN every year.
Behning, who chairs the House education committee, said the goal is to increase the amount of time students spend learning.
“We’re looking at a number of options to try to provide ultimate time for kids to spend on learning and mastery,” Behning said.
The idea has not been written into a bill yet, and there are still details that need to be worked out, Behning said. It’s being floated as the state works to address declining tests scores and learning loss during the pandemic.
This is not an effort to move away from standardized tests, Behning said, insisting the state would still be able to adequately measure student performance.
“Those test scores that a number of people have been talking about for some time do actually have a reflection in terms of how successful these kids are going to be in post-secondary [education] and in life,” Behning said.
The testing would start off as a pilot program involving some schools before it would become a statewide, permanent change, Behning explained.
If it passes in the legislature, it would need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education to move forward, he added.
Indiana educators acknowledge standardized testing – including preparation and practice exams – takes up quite a bit of time.
“It is multiple days and can lead up to as much as a couple of weeks of lost instructional time,” said Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools.
Butts said he supports the idea to scale back standardized testing, as does Steve Bair, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Beech Grove City Schools.
“It’s pretty extensive, the amount of testing that these kids are exposed to, and yes, we do need that time in the classrooms to provide the instruction,” Bair said.
“Many students – their efforts, their work is not reflected in that test score,” said Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.
Rachel Burke, president of the Indiana PTA, said she also supports the idea, adding there are other ways to measure student performance.
“I think looking at student portfolios at any grade level is probably a better idea than just flat out assessments,” Burke said.
An Indiana Department of Education spokesperson declined to weigh in on this idea but said the department will implement any new laws passed.