On Nov. 19, 2019, Indiana State Teachers Association, ISTA, hosted the Red for Ed Action Day. Red For Ed’s main goals were to have an investment from the state in teacher pay, get the new professional development requirements changed and for lawmakers to promise that test scores will not harm schools. On Jan. 10, ISTA issued a legislative update discussing how the session would be and announced a bill has been passed to remove the state’s mandate for schools to use ILEARN test scores against teachers during evaluations for two-years.
ISTA states that “there is also more good news coming out of the House with a bill to remove a state mandate for schools to use test scores in teacher evaluations. ISTA has worked closely with the bill's author and are happy to report the bill passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee on Tuesday. It further stipulates that for these school years, the ILEARN program test scores may not be used as part of a certificated employee's performance evaluation, unless the scores would improve the employee's performance rating.”
When ILEARN was introduced to Indiana, test scores dropped significantly, and those scores were used against schools and teacher evaluations, which also affected the state’s grade. Schools’ ILEARN scores affect much more than teacher evaluations, however. It not only affects the school's budget, which is set by lawmakers, and also reduces the number of teacher bonuses. It is normal for scores to decrease when a new state-administered test is placed, so the idea of using poor and unreliable scores against teachers is unfair. The state looks at standardized test scores as something that accurately measures a student’s knowledge, but does not consider outside factors in that student’s life that could negatively impact their scores. Having that score used against teachers was simply unfair.
The reason for the two bills that protect teachers and schools is to give school leaders time to review and reflect on ILEARN and students’ previous scores. Some may think completely getting rid of the state mandate for ILEARN scores may send a message to teachers and students that they are no longer being held accountable, but giving them two years to reflect on and review the next steps that could fix the problem.
The two bills responsible for the mandate are HB 1001 and HB 1002. HB 1001 is referred to as the hold-harmless bill, it protects schools from the low test scores. This means legislators cannot hold schools accountable for test scores until they feel confident in the system. HB 1002 is about teacher evaluations specifically. It acknowledges that by law they can not use a student test score against teachers, so it removes the requirement.
With having this bill passed, teachers can begin to see the changes that they have been asking for. Teachers not only have time to teach their students helpful materials to help pass the test, but they can also experience more accurate evaluations. This is a big step in a brighter future for educators and schools, and they are hoping to see other wishes met in the 2019-2020 school year.