News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

Opinion Columns

June 23, 2013

MARK BENNETT: Lesson in the Test

2013 experience triggers important soul-searching on standardized testing

TERRE HAUTE — If you’re a Hoosier adult of a certain age, find a pencil and paper.

Now, write down your sixth-grade score on the Iowa Basic Skills Test. (Be sure you’re using a No. 2 pencil.)

Finished?

You probably don’t remember that score, and that’s OK. If you do, a hobby or yoga might help.

As with the Iowa Basic Skills Test, itself, memories of our performance on it have likely faded. Indiana now relies on a different standardized test — ISTEP. There’s a far greater chance that today’s students, in grades 3-8, will have their ISTEP results, and those of their schools, etched in their minds for at least a few years and maybe into adulthood. That’s because the test has become, to borrow a tongue-in-cheek Monty Python phrase, “so big, so absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed.”

Seriously, ISTEP is indeed important.

It should not be predominant.

Scrutiny of the level of emphasis on ISTEP is one positive outcome of the furor over its disrupted implementation at Indiana schools this spring. The debacle has the well-paid test administration company and the legislators who ratcheted up ISTEP’s importance being held accountable for their accountability test. Irony can be powerful. Consider the following testimony before a joint Indiana House and Senate summer committee studying this year’s ISTEP breakdown, when nearly 80,000 students got booted offline in the midst of taking the test, forcing confusion, delays in its completion and layers of related problems.

Ellen Haley, president of the test administration company CTB/McGraw-Hill with a $95-million contract, told the committee, “The reason it happened is because we did not have enough [computer server] memory and planning was not adequate,” according to an Indianapolis Star report. “I know this is not acceptable to you; it is not to me. We are taking the summer to look at the problem.”

Taking the summer to look at the problem.

One of the consequences of the stuttered delivery of the 2013 ISTEP is that programs based on the test’s outcome must be postponed or scrapped. Earlier this month, South Vermillion School Corp. announced it had to cancel its summer remediation program because the district had no ISTEP scores (those won’t be available until at least July) to use in determining which kids need remedial help. Other school districts probably face similar scenarios.

Meanwhile, the testing company and lawmakers on the study committee will take the summer to study the problem. Ironic.

Maybe they’ll send each affected school district copies of “Catch 22.”

There is a long-term upside to “the problem.” That plus goes beyond financial penalties imposed against CTB. On Friday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz announced the state would seek preliminary damages of at least $613,000, adding that those “could reasonably go into the millions” later. That includes $53,000 to cover the cost of the Department of Education hiring a third-party to review the validity of this year’s ISTEP results. Ritz made the appropriate call in hiring an outside evaluator, given that she adamantly questioned the growing emphasis placed on Indiana’s standardized test.

That emphasis deserves regular study.

Lawmakers compounded “the problem” by attaching higher and higher stakes to ISTEP’s outcome. The results now serve as the basis for rewarding or punishing teachers, rating student achievement, applying A-F grades to schools, and distributing state funds to private schools. Students are growing aware of those implications. The disruptions kids encountered while taking, leaving, then resuming their ISTEP illuminated the hefty weight of high-stakes testing and its pressures for the public to see.

The balance between accountability and learning should be assessed and reassessed, regularly. This spring’s episode should make that balance easier for lawmakers to remember.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion Columns
  • wefight.jpg MARK BENNETT: Filmmaker captures late uncle’s walk through illness and into ‘whatever is next’

    Paul Fleschner sensed a remarkable strength as he filmed his beloved uncle one final time.

    July 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • RONN MOTT: Troubled history in that place called Iraq

    People are dying, again, in Iraq. And, again, people other than Iraqis will ultimately make the decision about what happens to this ancient land.

    July 11, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: That Old Man River

    I was surprised to learn the people in Cairo are now taking water taxis to avoid the traffic, the confusion and the dangers that are appearing on Cairo, Egypt’s, streets. I mean, I was surprised the people in Cairo, these native Egyptians, were surprised they could take a water taxi and get to where they wanted to go using the Nile River as a highway. So, for the Egyptians living in Cairo, everything old is brand new again.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Black Dog

    We had some excitement around our house the other day and it was not the good kind.
    There was a small dog, black in color with a spiked collar on his neck, and he was the spitting image of a small Doberman. I don’t know if they have miniature Dobermans but this dog could have been a mixed breed that came out looking like a Doberman although smaller.

    July 8, 2014

  • MS. TAKES: Great music is made during all generations

    Number Two son tells us that his 20-year-old son has been listening to “Big Band” music with apparent enjoyment. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, I was talking with a young girl, barely out of her teens and she told us that she really wasn’t into rap. She said, “It isn’t really music, it’s just talk.”

    July 7, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Learning more about Jefferson

    During this Fourth of July weekend, I’ll be reading John Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson.

    July 4, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country

    The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Cats

    Looking at the situation as a whole, the adopted cats, plus one, seem to be doing OK. The boys, Magic and Mellow, like to roam occasionally, which causes some consternation when they are gone for a long time.

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Oldtime fans will never give up on the Cubbies

    My Best Friend claims to be the world’s oldest living Cubs fan. I am willing to take him at his word, but surely there is some long-lived fan out there in the right field bleachers who would dispute his claim.

    June 30, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: These are tough times to be an opossum

    Who killed the opossum before man and the automobile? The automobile and mankind have started an evolutionary run on how the opossum continues his bloodline.

    June 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: These are tough times to be an opossum

    Who killed the opossum before man and the automobile? The automobile and mankind have started an evolutionary run on how the opossum continues his bloodline.

    June 27, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Teamwork

    Teamwork. You remember the drill. In the movie “Hoosiers,” the coach demanded four passes before anything else happened on the court. The idea of teamwork is you work toward a victory by making sure your self-interest doesn’t come before the team.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: World Cup

    I remember in junior high school, in physical education class, we were told to meet outside. The track and baseball diamond were in back of the school. We were met with a small, dimpled ball and the teacher told us it was soccer. It is played all over the world and you can use your head, your body and your feet, but not your hands. I decided then it was not a game for me.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • MS. TAKES: Words no one wants to hear: ‘At your age’

    The other evening, a friend limped into the dining room. Judging from the grimace, she was in some degree of pain, so I asked if she had fallen.

    June 23, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Great effort brings rewards

    I want to tip my hat to young David Fuson who has become the spokesperson for the family business.

    June 20, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Iraq, again

    Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, lifted into Heaven on a rock, on a hill, in Jerusalem. The binding of military might and strategies, and a religion that was meant for everyone, began to fall apart at that time in history.

    June 19, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Stanley Cup

    I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a proud American who wants to see the USA win just about everything — except the Stanley Cup.

    June 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Son has a knack for rescuing lost birds

    I think the excitement of last week is over — for now. It all began when Number One son opened the door to a storage area and found a small bird, very much alive. Because my family likes to talk in a soothing voice to all animals, Number One assured the little guy that he was not to worry. “I’ll take you back outside so you can find your family.” Oddly enough, the little bird calmed down and sat quietly in our son’s hand until he put it down outside.

    June 17, 2014

  • tsBennett MARK BENNETT: Dad-to-dad advice

    Giving unsolicited advice is like offering somebody else your toothbrush, because it’s worked so well for you.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Looking back on yet another birthday

    I have a birthday this week. And, I suppose that like some of you, I tend to look back over the lifespan to reflect on how it has been going.

    June 13, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Tony Awards

    The opening of the Tony Awards saw Hugh Jackman hopping down Broadway, into the theatre, down the aisle, a big leap onto the stage, then back stage and back out to start the show … all the time hopping like the Wolverine that he is.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: An American Soldier

    The cover of Time magazine this past week had a picture of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and emblazoned under the picture were the words, “WAS HE WORTH IT?” And the answer is … YES!

    June 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Liz Ciancone.jpg LIZ CIANCONE: Dental gains came with far less pain

    Sometimes I wonder if the “good old days” were all they are cracked up to be. I’ll give you the “old” but the jury is still out on “good.”

    June 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • MARK BENNETT: The road ahead

    An invisible force shield — just like those found in comic books — formed a barrier between us and the edge of that road.

    June 7, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Why I still have faith in Congress

    It’s depressing to read poll after poll highlighting Americans’ utter disdain for Congress.

    June 7, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Radio Movement

    It seems as if the radio market is living up to the show business reputation of the only thing constant is change.

    June 5, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Stench of the VA

    The Veterans Administration medical service has been an ill-run situation for American veterans for years. It goes back to Richard Nixon’s inability to get anything done, to John Kennedy permitting the use of Agent Orange to get rid of the foliage in Vietnam.

    June 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Programs from past can still be the best

    I was playing with the channel selector the other evening and lucked upon my Best Friend’s favorite movie. We sat up until all hours until the credits for “Twelve O’clock High” signaled that it was all over.

    June 2, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: Generational ‘Catch 22’

    Baby Boomers’ long run of cultural dominance gradually gives way to America’s 22-year-olds

    May 31, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: The dangers of a melting shelf

    According to the scientists who study and know about these things, the west Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than expected, and the resulting rise in sea levels will change the globe in all parts of the world.

    May 30, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Bull Run Comes to Middle America Raw: Divers, Snorkelers at Undersea 'Concert' Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Raw: Violence Mars Argentina's WC Celebration Israel Deploys Ground Troops to Gaza Strip Lightning Kills Two in National Park in Colorado Space Station Shipment Launched From Virginia Germany Wins the World Cup 1-0 One Dead, 19 Injured in Greyhound Bus Crash Stolen Car Collides With Greyhound Bus Argentina Fans Sad but Proud in Loss Giant Whale Vacuumed in New York City Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Diaz and Segel Strip Off for 'Sex Tape' Tiny Texas Border Town Weathers Migrant Influx LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' Wisconsin Cop Ready to Roll...On Skateboard Raw: Stunning Timelapse of WC Final Host City Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters
NDN Video
A Dog and His Chicks LeBron and Blatt 'will work together beautifully' Boeing Squeezes More Seats Into the 737 Fist Pump Time! JWoww is a New Mom Japan zoo makes wild fashion statement with lion-ripped jeans Germany Wins the World Cup 1-0 Man In Trouble For Selfie During 'Running Of The Bulls' RAW VIDEO: Stampede injures ten at Georgia World Congress Center Original 'Planet of the Apes' Actress Looks Back at the Classic Film Cellphone Video Shows Assault Tracy Morgan released from rehab month after crash Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked!
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity