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Education

As Pandemic-Year ILEARN Results Loom, Some Parents Question Value Of Standardized Tests

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Hoosier students took ILEARN in-person earlier this year, after many were learning remotely at least part-time because of the pandemic. (FILE PHOTO: Tyler Lake/WTIU)

Indiana is set to unveil ILEARN results later this week, and officials say the data is a key tool to gauge student learning during the pandemic. But some parents question the value of the test and whether it should really be used to inform policy – especially after last school year.

Early reports of ILEARN results indicate a significant drop in math and English scores. 

Standardized testing data won't be used for school accountability this year, but with billions of COVID-19 relief dollars sent to schools, officials say the data will help inform where to target resources for kids. 

But Gary parent Nina Burton said she thinks the way test scores are used to compare students in different schools doesn't really benefit them – particularly when students of color lack the same educational opportunities. Burton said she and other parents think it's time to change the system entirely.

"I do hear a lot more parents speaking of the need for that system to be revamped or just abandoned," Burton said.

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Test score data has historically highlighted opportunity gaps for Black and Hispanic students, as well as students in poverty. 

Burton said it's essential for schools to provide equal opportunities for every child to recover learning they missed out on during the pandemic, and that if policymakers want to know what's happening in schools they should talk to local teachers and parents instead of relying on test data.

Others see problems with ILEARN specifically, and say trauma stemming from the pandemic makes social and emotional support for kids just as important as academic recovery.

Indiana Parent Teacher Association President Rachel Burke said she thinks the state's ILEARN assessment isn't designed to fairly measure student learning – especially after examining her own child's test answers. 

"Having seen the questions and having seen how they are graded – and again that's one child one grade and I understand that – it's not the tool we need to be using," Burke said.

Burke said it's more critical for schools to support students emotionally and socially as they transition back to school full time this fall, because many families are still reeling from the personal toll of the pandemic.

Officials will release ILEARN data to the public during the Indiana State Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.