INDIANAPOLIS — Following calls on Monday to hold Indiana schools harmless for lower-than-expected performance on the state’s new ILEARN assessment, the Indiana Department of Education is proposing steps to help mitigate the effects of the exam administered to students for the first time this spring.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick announced Wednesday not only will the IDOE seek legislation to place a “hold harmless” on schools’ A-F letter grades determined in part by the statewide assessment, but it will also advocate for a pause on all school intervention timelines and to give the state Board of Education emergency authority to review the state’s accountability system under which school letter grades are assigned.

Over the last two weeks, parents and educators across the state have received a first look at the results of the new ILEARN exam — many of them showing performance declines as compared to last year’s ISTEP+ exam.

Scores for all Indiana schools will be made public following the IBOE’s meeting next Wednesday.

The ILEARN exam was implemented for the first time this spring in grades three through eight as a replacement to the state’s former ISTEP+ exam. The new assessment, taken on a computer, uses adaptive technology to alter exam difficulty in real time as students take the test.

McCormick acknowledged the low performance Wednesday afternoon, citing students’ unfamiliarity with a new exam format and the rigor of the assessment, designed to provide a new evaluation of students’ college and career readiness.

Northwest Indiana educators cited concerns of lengthy testing windows and standards not previously assessed following this spring’s exam.

McCormick said state officials met with educators immediately following the administration of this spring’s test to seek feedback.

“The good news for Indiana is we are seeing an uptick in trends nationally for our performance,” McCormick said. “ILEARN was a snapshot in time. It was a one-day assessment. It gave us information on where students are performing, but there are a lot of pieces to student performance beyond one assessment.”

McCormick said without yet having the full set of indicators used to calculate schools’ A-F accountability grades, the department cannot estimate just how much of an effect low ILEARN scores will have on a school’s accountability grade.

The IDOE’s proposal for legislative action to pause intervention timelines could provide relief for schools teetering on the edge of state takeover. And, with the superintendent’s recommendation to give the IBOE emergency rulemaking authority to review the state’s A-F accountability system, changes could come more quickly to how standardized testing is calculated in school grades.

However, this is all dependent on support in the next legislative session.

State leaders like Gov. Eric Holcomb came forward Monday with statements backing “hold harmless” action.

“The success and well being of our students, educators, and schools are dependent upon these actions,” McCormick said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “While the 2019 ILEARN results do not provide a true reflection of the performance of Indiana’s schools, they do once again show us the importance of developing a modernized state legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate and transparent.”
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