Students in the Indianapolis Public Schools might soon have to take yet another exam.
District leaders are so tired of the wait for state test scores, which have been coming out months after they are given, that they are considering adding another test to the crowded roster. The idea is to give teachers and district leaders more immediate feedback on how students and schools are performing.
Superintendent Lewis Ferebee suggested the district could purchase an off-the-shelf test such as the ones produced by ACT or the College Board, which make tests for younger students as well as college readiness exams.
“If we continue to have the challenge that we’ve experienced the last couple of years with getting timely and reliable assessment data, there may become a time where we would have to create our own measures,” Ferebee said.
Students in IPS already take regular assessments, such as Acuity or the MAP test from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which are designed to give teachers prompt feedback on how students are doing. In the past, administrators have pointed to those assessments as tools the district uses instead of the controversial state tests.
But the district’s growing innovation school program is putting some new urgency behind the need for fast and accurate test results.
The now exam would be used to help assess whether schools have such bad performance that the district might choose to restart them as innovation schools, which are considered part of the district but run by outside managers.
District policy says that schools that receive three consecutive failing grades from the state could be converted to innovation schools. But administrators fear that delays in receiving state letter grades could slow the process of discussing problems with families and staff at persistently failing schools.
Board president Mary Ann Sullivan said the district shouldn’t rely on state data that consistently comes late. She suggested the district could use new tests or other measures of school quality like suspension rates, parent involvement, attendance and college persistence.
“We should lead,” she said. “Let’s just go ahead and take control of our own fate here and do what’s right for kids.”
The idea comes at the same time that state education leaders are looking to make required state tests shorter due to concerns that students are spending too much time taking assessments. A committee of educators and political leaders have been meeting since May to find an alternative to the problem-plagued ISTEP but the group has reached few conclusions and is now talking about postponing testing changes until 2019 or later.
If IPS doesn’t want to wait for the state to figure things out, a local exam is one option, the board members said.
Some members raised concerns that adding another assessment could contribute to over testing but still seemed open to the idea.
“I’m not sure that we are going to get state data any quicker, just based on their inability to make decisions,” said board member Michael O’Connor.
Update (October 19, 2016): This story was updated to clarify Sullivan’s interest in measures of school quality other than test scores.