The Fort Wayne Community School board voted last week to not help the Indiana Department of Education pilot questions for next year’s ISTEP+, saying they didn’t want to subject their students to additional, unnecessary testing.
Piloting test questions is an important part of developing an assessment, according to the IDOE. A future version of the ISTEP+ may use these questions. By having real students pilot the questions, which don’t count for anything, the IDOE says they can see if a question effectively gathers the right information and is statistically reliable.
The IDOE asks school districts all over the state to pilot these questions each year, but only need a small portion of Indiana students to participate.
Fort Wayne school board president Mark GiaQuinta says when the IDOE needed the pilot questions to be completed overlapped with the administration of the IREAD-3 and second window for the ISTEP+. In addition to that, he said if there’s ever an opportunity for the district to opt out of testing, they will do it.
“Our principal goal is to educate all students to a high level, and for that to occur we value classroom time,” GiaQuinta says. “We believe the time spent between a student and his or her teacher is far more valuable than the time taking a standardized test.”
With Fort Wayne’s refusal to participate, IDOE spokesperson Samantha Hart says the department will have to find other school districts to complete the pilot.
“We understand the concerns coming from Fort Wayne Community Schools and other school districts,” Hart says. “This is why superintendent Ritz has passionately advocated to get rid of a high stakes, pass-fail assessment.”
But as long as there is standardized testing there will be a need to pilot questions, says Hart. Although the legislature recently voted to get rid of ISTEP+ and create a new test, under federal guidelines it will still have to test a student on their knowledge gained throughout a whole year. And because there will be a test, those questions will have to be piloted to ensure the test’s accuracy.