Navigating state testing transitions — learning from Indiana's experience
Dr. Charity Flores of Indiana's Department of Education explains how the state has adapted its assessments framework.
Indiana currently stands at a crossroads of assessment implementation going forward. In the recent past, Indiana experienced technology outages and quick implementation plans that challenged the field to make quick adjustments and brought into question how we better deliver quality assessments.
Emphasizing "21st century learning" in testing for college and career readiness
Through the recent legislative cycle, Indiana now has an opportunity to reset expectations with educators in the field and implement best practices leveraging current work in other states to take a strong step forward. Indiana’s shift to now focus on quality development practices with educator engagement ensure instruction aligns to the expectations for the high stakes assessment.
Indiana is focused on preparing our students for success beyond K-12 with college and career readiness. Ensuring this readiness is a priority of the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). To accomplish this, IDOE is developing a system of assessments considering summative, interim and formative components. While instruction methods have changed and improved over the years, Indiana’s assessments have not.
We live in a 21st century world of differentiated instruction – which we measure with 19th century static assessments, not addressing individual needs. To truly prepare our students for their future college and career choices, we must create individualized instruction based on need.
And to achieve this, we must provide educators with the most up-to-date testing tools. For this reason, Indiana’s future includes Computer Adaptive Assessments.
Bringing educators back into the assessment process
Another shift into a more functional assessment is the integration of educators into the scoring process. Through consideration of a scoring model implemented in other states, educators receive critical professional development about the ways the standards translate into expectations, or scoring rubrics, for students. This opportunity allows educators to engage in test content differently than we have been able to do so previously. This option requires a commitment from Indiana educators to engage with the content outside of school hours to the benefit of a more transparent assessment model.
Giving an assessment, we know, is only a part. Reading, understanding, and responding to the results is when we will make targeted changes and improvements for our students’ success. With the individualized results we receive from Computer Adaptive Assessments, we are able to differentiate instruction to address each student's needs, allowing each student the opportunity for growth. This creates cyclical success in meeting the needs of Indiana students.
Education is moving at the speed of light as it works to catch up to technology. Many Indiana classrooms now have 1:1 devices, and with assistance from our recent digital learning awards, more will follow. But we cannot simply provide students with technology access for books, homework, and communications with instructors, only to assess their academic aptitude with pencil and paper. We must mirror our growth in instruction with growth in our assessments. We must adapt our testing to reflect clearer performance, to allow for more individualized instruction, and to better prepare our students for what lies ahead.
Dr. Charity Flores is director of the office of student assessment for Indiana's Department of Education.