Indiana’s Assessment Woes

Photo credit: Steve Baker (CC-By-ND 2.0)

Today’s editorial in The Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette highlights the testing woes that Indiana currently faces.

An unsuccessful bidder is crying foul over the state’s award of a three-year, $43.5 million contract to the American Institutes for Research. Data Recognition Corp. claims the state’s¬†assessment director, Charity Flores, had a conflict of interest. Between¬†posts at the Indiana Department of Education,¬†Flores was deputy director of content for Smarter Balanced, a partner to the winning vendor.

Chalkbeat Indiana reports that Data Recognition Corp. has¬†protested the Indiana Department of Administration contract award, also challenging its validity¬†on the grounds it violates the state’s prohibition on use of Common Core State Standards. Smarter Balanced is a state-led consortium created to develop the tests aligned to the Common Core standards. AIR serves as the¬†testing platform for questions developed by the consortium.

The charges offer more evidence of a testing culture gone awry, with entanglements in the so-called ‚Äúeducation reform‚ÄĚ community compromising well-intentioned efforts to ensure school accountability. The time and money¬†involved are growing¬†along with the frustration for educators.

Data Recognition Corp brings up a good point. For a state that supposedly rejected Common Core (they rebranded it instead), it’s telling they select a vendor who will use questions from the Smarter Balanced test bank to develop Indiana’s new assessment.

So much for the repeal.

They offer a suggestion.

Indiana doesn’t have the option of eliminating testing because the¬†federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for No Child Left Behind, requires a statewide assessment. Nor would it want to eliminate testing, which¬†serves as a check on school performance. But there’s¬†tremendous flexibility with ESSA: States¬†don’t have¬†to administer a¬†major¬†summative¬†test¬†each spring¬†‚Äď they¬†can use smaller interim assessments and¬†also evaluate students through portfolios or projects.

I can’t think of a state that is doing that. It would be interesting to see a state take that recommendation and put it in their ESSA accountability plan to see what kind of feedback they receive from the U.S. Department of Education.