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FWCS says it won't accept ISTEP+ scores without independent verification

District fed up with reliance on standardized testing for assessment

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 12:57 pm

Calling the state's reliance on standardized testing as a barometer of school performance "a house of cards," Fort Wayne Community Schools on Wednesday said that it refuses to accept the ISTEP+ scores for this year unless they are verified by an independent third party.

FWCS released a two-page memorandum titled "Overview of ISTEP+ 2013," which, on the surface, details the district's unhappiness with the debacle that took place in late April, when vendor CBT/McGraw-Hill was unable to conduct the online portion of the testing without problems that forced the process to be suspended multiple days.

In late April, FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman termed the delays "frustrating" because of the importance of the test results in determining letter grades for the district and its schools, as well as the weight it carries on personnel evaluations.

The memorandum makes that frustration clear, stating, "State Legislators have built a structure tying one exam – one broken system – to every measurement of schools," and citing the letter grades, teacher evaluations and pay, and the ability for students to get vouchers, which affects funding for public and private schools.

The memorandum goes on to state that "We will not stand by and be victims of this broken system. As the largest district in the state with a diverse student population, Fort Wayne Community Schools has the most at stake in this process."

What does FWCS want to accomplish with the release of the memorandum, which Stockman said will be sent to parents, legislators, business leaders and others?

The district wants to start a dialogue that changes this process, the rules of assessment public schools face by law. With more than 30,000 students enrolled in its schools – and with the fact that there is not nearly enough capacity for those thousands of students to go to parochial, private or charters – FWCS has a bully pulpit to implore people to listen.

Stockman said Wednesday that FWCS isn't attempting to shirk responsibility in the education process and that the district welcomes accountability. But one standardized test can't assess the totality of the educational process, including social factors such as poverty and having English as a second language, which not all students face each day.

"That's really what we're getting at with this," Stockman said. "We really need to have a discussion as to what we're trying to accomplish.

"On the surface, it sounds like a good thing, to give a school a letter grade," Stockman added. "It's just the implementation of it that doesn't make sense."

For more on this story, see Thursday's edition of The News-Sentinel or check back on www.news-sentinel.com.