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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

As the Test Turns

As the Test Turns

By Christina Larson
South Montgomery Community School Corporation
Doctoral Student
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University
Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

Do the benefits of an excruciatingly long statewide assessment really offset the loss of comparable hours of instruction? Have we veered from a once-responsible path, hitting head-on, an educational road sign that denotes, “Wrong Way”?
After the statewide release of the length of time that would be needed for this year’s ISTEP+ Part 1 and ISTEP+ Part 2, educators learned that our students would be faced with, at our count, roughly twenty hours of ISTEP + assessments and preparation. 
Governor Pence showed leadership this week (not to mention political savvy) by issuing an Executive Order to halt all that nonsense. Though we have the upmost respect for State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and her team at IDOE, something needed to happen, and they didn’t appear to be changing course.
The Best of Daytime Drama: As the Test Turns.
This brings up a conversation that Hoosiers, and all across America, need to have:  Do we really want to subject our elementary students to an assessment that runs as long or longer than many State Bar Exams, in order to determine if schools are doing a good job teaching what the tests measure?  Can we develop other ways to ensure excellence in education without sapping our children’s time, talent, and interest in school?
Possibly the more important question may be, “Are these assessments really helping students to become College and Career Ready?”  They certainly do not focus on authentic learning and real-world problems. If we listen to our friends in business and industry who will hire our graduates, they are asking us to prepare employees who are problem solvers and collaborators. 
What ever became of the push for the 21st Century Skills of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking?  There certainly is a small glimmer of their inclusion when Indiana included Speaking and Listening Skills which addressed collaboration, presentation, and reciprocal communication with others. Unfortunately, these critical skills are left unassessed in ISTEP+, and in the Instructional and Assessment Guidance Documents for 2014-15 that is prepared by the Department of Education, teachers are encouraged to only allocate 5 to 10 percent of their instructional time in this area.  With high-stakes testing now reaching an all-time high, we’re pushing aside what makes schools, teaching, and learning great – and transferrable.
Pink (2006) and Zhao (2015, 2012) aptly suggested the United States is best known for leading innovation and entrepreneurship.  Yet as other countries are moving toward systems that foster creativity, we are moving farther away. Our assessment system is now forcing teachers to focus on only what can only be measured at lower levels of inquiry, thus turning what could be a liberating learning experience, into response-driven regurgitation.    
Our world is changing before our eyes. We understand the need for educating our children to be successful in a global community and economy.  Yet, with our current focus on assessment, are we unintentionally creating a generation of followers who will have trouble serving as leaders?
Obviously, this article presents more questions than answers, yet certainly questions that merit discussion as this turn-of-events continues.  We believe that the time is now in Indiana, as well as across the country, to change course and avoid future collisions. 
Governor Pence reacted quickly to the outlandish double-timing of this year’s assessment schedule, but what will be his next move?  Perhaps this will be the defining moment where our lawmakers and state officials will recognize the impact of their agendas and look for another way to ensure quality schools without further reducing time for children to learn. 
Our next few miles of travel will impact us, most assuredly.


Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York, NY: The Penguin Group.
Zhao, Y. (2015, January 22). China encourages college students to suspend study and become entrepreneurs and innovators. Creative, Entrepreneurial, and Global: 21st Century Education. Retrieved at
Zhao, Y. (2012). World-class learners: Educating creative and entrepreneurial students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin


Christina Larson and Ryan Donlan are firm believers in the need to upsize the teaching and learning, while right-sizing the amount of standardized testing, in America’s schools.  If you would like to talk with them, or even debate a point or two, please do not hesitate to contact them at

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