FWCS seeks pause in A-F accountability grades

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Fort Wayne school officials have approved a resolution asking the state to pause its A-F accountability system for a year, saying they hope to start a bigger conversation about statewide standardized testing.

The resolution, which received unanimous support Monday, will be sent to state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education and state lawmakers.

Indiana implemented a new ISTEP+ exam this year that was redesigned to meet new academic standards developed after the state decided to withdraw from the national Common Core standards. Though many experts said Indiana’s new standards closely resembled Common Core, the revised ISTEP+ test sparked an outcry when school officials realized the length of the test had doubled to about 12 hours in most cases.

Gov. Mike Pence hired outside experts to work with the Department of Education and lawmakers to reduce the length of the test, ultimately shaving about three hours off. But concerns about whether the revamped test will be a true reflection of students’ abilities remain.

Some concerns center around the formula used to set cut scores, which determine the number of points needed to pass the ISTEP+ test. The existing formula is based 60 percent on test scores and 40 percent on student growth. But next year, that formula will assign 50 percent to each area.

Fort Wayne Superintendent Wendy Robinson told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1F6beUq ) that cut scores are just one part “of the whole package” and said school districts need more time to transition to new standards. She said the “flawed” accountability process has made educators lose confidence in the test.

State Board of Education spokesman Marc Lotter said the accountability system for this year “is already in place” and noted that the General Assembly, which doesn’t return until January, would have to approve any pause in the process.

Lotter said the resolution shows little faith in teachers.

“The test was new, but we can adjust for those things,” Lotter said. “It has always been planned that we could adjust. With this new test, even if a student is struggling, they may still not pass the test. If they show growth, the schools will get credit for that.”

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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