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Indiana District Refuses State Request to Pilot New Tests

By guest blogger Catherine Gewertz

In an angry vote Wednesday night, the Fort Wayne school district refused to let its students participate in piloting new tests. The move has reportedly prompted state department of education officials to consult their lawyers about whether districts may refuse to participate.

According to the News-Sentinel, the Fort Wayne Community Schools board unanimously rejected the state board of education's request to have randomly chosen grade levels of students at 39 schools spend between 30 minutes and two hours trying out questions for the state's 2016-17 test. 

Piloting test items is a standard stage of test development, undertaken to find flaws in questions and test forms so they can be revised before operational testing begins.

But Fort Wayne board members said they didn't want their students using instructional time to help the state develop the next generation of the ISTEP+. Indiana set out to revamp its test by 2017 in response to anger about its length, questions about its accuracy, and trouble with online administration. 

"This does not help our kids at all," board member Glenna Jehl said about Indiana's current request for districts to pilot yet another round of test questions, according to the News-Sentinel. "Somebody has to say, 'Enough is enough.'"

"Participation in the pilot will take away from my son's learning," said another board member, Jordan Lebamoff. "Participation in the pilot will not teach my son anything."

This wasn't a board breaking away from its district leadership, either. Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson had recommended that the board reject the state's request, which landed only a week before this year's ISTEP+ testing began in late February.

At least one other district in the Fort Wayne area, Northwest Allen County Schools, also plans to hold its students out of pilot testing, the Journal-Gazette said.

The Fort Wayne community schools had its own attorney, and its president, who is also a lawyer, review regulations, and they advised the local board that it has the right to refuse to participate in the pilot, according to the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for the state department of education did not respond to Education Week's request for comment. 


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