ISTEP test not best measure of what and how much students are learning

What does a test tell you about yourself? What does a test tell others about you? What does a test tell others about those who are responsible for you? While it’s not an exact science, it’s entirely possible that your fate, as well the fate of those around you is entirely based on the results of a test.

One standardized test, the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP), determines the fate of an entire community.

Let that marinate for just a moment.

Consider the student for just a moment. It’s Monday morning. Mom and stepdad just spent the entire weekend fighting about bills. The student has horrible test anxiety. When asked a complex mathematical equation, she nails it every time, but when the same question is on a piece of paper, it appears like a foreign language.

Mom drops the student off at school and complains about the weekend-long fighting all the way to school.

The student wonders if she will be able to eat dinner this week, fears that her mother may be getting a divorce, and is enduring the unimaginable stress of staring at a page full of words she doesn’t understand.

The teacher has spent several weeks preparing this class to pass the ISTEP test. She knows the fate of her job as well as her school depends on these kids performing well on these tests.

She’s focused on the practice tests day in and day out. She has provided exercises on how to be successful test-takers.

After nearly a month of prep, it is finally test day. Are the students ready? Is the temperature in the room OK? Will I have a job next year? Am I going to get that raise?

Sadly, a teacher should be asking themselves one question in March instead of all of these. That question is this: Have I educated my students and prepared them to proceed to their next year?

The society as a whole has become over-dependent on numbers and less on evaluation. Can you imagine if the Indianapolis Colts would have gone by the numbers test instead of evaluation and drafted Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning?

What does a test tell you about yourself? It tells you that the conditions were optimal or not on that given moment for you to answer a question.

If you got the question right, did you really know the answer or did you just make a good guess?

How many times have you got a question wrong and then face-palmed because you simply forgot at that time?

We need to get back in the classrooms to see if our kids are learning and if our teachers are good or not.

A collective of 1,000 test scores does very little to tell you anything about the students or the teachers.

Look a child in the eye when you ask them a question to see if they know it or not. Watch your teachers develop and deliver lessons to see if they are doing a good job. Watch how the children react to them to see if they’re collectively doing well or not.

Should we eliminate the ISTEP test altogether?

Maybe we should, but that’s not the point.

The point is it should be a piece of the puzzle rather than the whole picture. Evaluating a teacher, student and school solely on one test that several kids have a hard time taking seriously is like determining the value of a car simply based on its gas mileage.

If you think each kid puts their heart and soul into this test, you are sadly mistaken.

Of course, we wouldn’t know because we rely on the test to tell us everything we think we need to know.

When our students fail, our teachers fail. When our teachers and students fail, our schools fail.

When our school fails, our community fails. One true sign of a community, especially the smaller communities, is how well the school is educating our students.

If they are spending several weeks out of one short school year on one test, are they really educating our students or are they teaching them how to pass one test?

Teachers have one of the most difficult jobs.

It’s about time we give them a hand and let them do what they love to do.

Jason Reed is a lifelong Hancock County resident. He lives in Greenfield.