Senate Bill 2 and HB 1001 are parallel bills being fast-tracked through the Indiana General Assembly that call for a two-year pause, or “hold harmless,” on school performance designations (“A-F” letter grades). Student progress on annual state assessments is a key factor in determining school letter grades under an education accountability system designed to help parents and policymakers understand how Indiana students and schools are performing.
This legislation comes in response to widespread concern stemming from disappointing results from the first administration of Indiana’s new ILEARN assessments in 2019. Only 37% of students statewide passed both the English and math portions of the tests, which are aligned with Indiana’s academic standards and were developed in consultation with Hoosier educators.
Largely lost in the public outcry over the ILEARN assessments and their potential impact on school letter grades is that all the available evidence indicates that the tests are a valid and accurate reflection of student learning. The ILEARN results – disappointing as they may be – are consistent with Indiana students’ recent performance on other assessments, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (or NAEP), America’s largest nationally representative assessment of student learning.
In a related move, HB 1002 would remove a current state requirement that local school districts’ educator evaluation systems be based, in part, on “objective measures of student achievement.” This change would preclude schools from using student assessment results – both overall performance and learning growth – in gauging the effectiveness of their classroom teachers. It is worth noting that student assessment results are typically only a small factor in teacher evaluations, about 2% of a teacher’s overall annual performance rating in most Indiana school districts. State data show that about 98% of Indiana teachers are rated “effective” or “highly effective” by their administrators.
Though the Indiana Chamber shares the widespread concern about the recent ILEARN results, we believe that a “hold harmless” for school accountability designations should only be a one-year action at most. As we’ve seen in the past, it’s common for there to be an initial dip in student performance when a new state assessment is administered for the first time. However, we do not believe that alone justifies an extended hiatus from school accountability. Unfortunately, the Indiana Chamber is one of the few groups to fully support important accountability measures.
The bottom line from the Indiana Chamber’s perspective is that the ILEARN test is a valid measure of our students’ academic progress, and both parents and taxpayers have a right to know how their schools are performing. Refusing to acknowledge and accept where we are and failing to agree that it simply is not good enough is a disservice to both our students and our state. Likewise, abandoning objective measures of student learning in gauging teacher effectiveness sends the wrong message and sets a troubling precedent for future education reforms.