The Associated Press has an article reporting on edits suggested by a State Board of Education official and apparently adopted by supposedly independent consultants hired to evaluate Indiana’s most recent ISTEP debacle. The substance of the report was apparently not changed, but the “messaging” was. The example featured prominently has the original version stating:
“It is safe to say that the 2015 ISTEP+ program is a work in progress, put in place quickly and without the usual procedures (e.g., field testing) used with most new assessment programs.”
State Board of Education executive director John Snethen challenged that sentence, asking “why is it safe to say this? This is an example of a statement that could cause concern.” The sentence was removed from the draft. Snethen did not comment for the story. The SBOE assures us that his involvement was purely about making the highly technical report understandable for us rubes. (I paraphrase). The consulting company was a little more forthcoming and indicated that SBOE was concerned about messaging. Where possible, SBOE would prefer a “glass half full” message. I’m sure they would.
This test was in trouble from the start. The value of these tests is dubious in the first place. Then the State dumped Common Core for reasons that seem to have much less to do with its substance than with an emotional response to a perceived “federal takeover.” This, in turn, caused the state to rush out an untested test — on which we’ve wasted many millions of dollars without producing anything of value to students. (Remember them?)
The changes made by Snethen also suggest the Pence administration is cautious of possible backlash to the new academic standards, which were put in place after Indiana became the first state to withdraw from the Common Core standards in 2014. Conservative critics say the national math and English benchmarks that describe what students should know after completing each grade amount to a federal takeover of education, and Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana officials also have taken steps to drop Common Core.
. . .
The ISTEP+ test, which features Indiana-specific academic standards, was hastily rolled out in early 2015. Educators balked, saying it would take a staggering 12 hours to complete; the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a bill shortening the exam before students ever took the test. And some students who later took it online reported computer glitches, which were found to have an impact on their performance.
Others have raised questions about whether the test was scored properly or even an accurate assessment, leading the state Board of Education to call for the investigation, which state officials said would be independent when it launched April.
Half-empty or half-filled, we should probably be asking what it is that the glass is full of.