Holcomb, legislators call for pause on consequences for poor ILEARN scores

Gov. Eric Holcomb is calling on legislators to take action to protect teachers from being negatively affected by 2019 test scores, a week before the results are made public.

Scores for the first year of Indiana’s new test, ILEARN, are expected to be lower than previous years’ scores under ISTEP—a drop which could affect schools’ state grades and teachers’ pay.

Some lawmakers were quick Monday morning to endorse the idea of a one-year pause on the scores’ consequences, which the state has done before, but one lawmaker influential in education policy stopped short.

Schools received their scores earlier this month, and at least three superintendents came forward in an op-ed saying their scores were worse than expected and calling for legislators to respond. The test was administered to grades 3-8 in the spring.

Holcomb released a statement Monday morning asking the General Assembly to “hold schools harmless,” saying doing so would “ease the transition to ILEARN.”

He is asking for scores not to negatively affect state A-F grades or teacher evaluations.

In his response to Holcomb’s statement, House education committee chair Rep. Bob Behning didn’t make it clear whether he would he support a hold harmless effort.

“While these results are not the ones we had hoped for, the value of Hoosier students and teachers is not defined by test scores, but by the learning being accomplished in the classroom,” he said. “We are taking a hard look at our overall state accountability system.”

The state has approved a hold-harmless exception for schools before. Scores sank after the state introduced a new version of ISTEP in 2015 based on the more rigorous standards. In response, lawmakers passed legislation prevented schools from receiving A-F letter grades that year that were lower than what they received the year before.

The ILEARN test is based on the same standards as last year’s exam, but the form is very different. Unlike ISTEP, it is computer-adaptive, meaning it gives students more difficult questions as they answer correctly and easier questions as they answer incorrectly. The idea is to more thoroughly test their mastery of a subject, but it’s a format many students may not have experienced before.

The acronym stands for Indiana Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network.

Senate education leader Jeff Raatz, House Speaker Brian Bosma, and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray also released statements Monday morning in favor of a one-year hold-harmless provision.

“I believe in our teachers and schools and know they are working hard to benefit our kids,” Bray said.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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