I-Team 8

Group of Indiana superintendents push back on spring ILEARN testing

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana will spend $19 million this spring for a test that will in the long run have no bearing on student success. A group of school 40 superintendents from northern Indiana have sent a letter to the governor and the secretary of education asking them to find another way. 

The ILEARN test is given every spring to students in third through eighth grades. One of the superintendents who signed the letter is Jay County Superintendent Jeremy Gulley. 

“It is everything we can do to keep the doors open and keep the schools going, and I think for parents, the first and foremost in their mind is can we keep our schools open? Can we have in-person instruction?” said Gulley. 

The federal government requires assessment tests and can withhold $300 million in funding if the state fails to give the test. The feds require 95% of eligible students take the test. With the pandemic, virtual learning, quarantines and teacher shortages, getting 95% of the students tested during a two-week window will be a challenge, according to Fremont Schools Superintendent William Stitt.

“What are we going to do there with our kids because again, they could be gone for two weeks, which could take up the whole window of one of the tests, and you know, if they don’t finish their math or language test, then pretty much the whole thing is a wash,” Stitt said. 

Several Indiana school districts already use the NWEA test for yearly assessment, and unlike the ILEARN test, it can be administered to students virtually, and the results are turned around within hours instead of weeks.

The Indiana Secretary of Education asked the federal government for a waiver back in December, but the state still wants all schools to administer the test.

“We will move forward with these assessments so that we get the data so we can see where student learning is right now,” said Holly Lawson of the secretary of education’s office.

The superintendents’ letter says the state could save millions by using assessment test scores that have already been given; they say the federal money is not attached directly tied to the ILEARN test.