Are legislators using flawed ISTEP data to expand private school vouchers?
Following the controversy and mismanagement of this year’s ISTEP, there is a lack of confidence in the test results. ISTA has long held that there should be a pause in accountability. Teachers and schools should not be held responsible for low ISTEP scores in this year of transition to a new test and standards. Now, even the governor and some legislators agree with us on relief for teachers. However, they seem to be holding firm that these defective scores be used to label schools with A-F grades.
If ISTEP scores are too flawed to be used to evaluate teachers, why use them to label schools? Maybe private school vouchers has something to do with it.
For students who meet the income requirements, living in a school district that has been assigned an F automatically qualifies them to receive a private school voucher.
This leads us to the latest preliminary number of schools receiving an F based on the current flawed ISTEP scores. In 2014, only 84 schools received an F. However, the number of F schools jumps to 359 with this year’s flawed ISTEP results—a 327 percent increase. That’s nearly 20 percent of all schools in the state.
As a result, students living in those 359 school districts would now become eligible for a private school voucher. Last year, 30,000 vouchers were distributed in the state at a cost of $116 million. If the flawed ISTEP scores are used to label 359 Indiana schools as failing, there’s little doubt the voucher costs would increase.
Hopefully, expanding Indiana’s private school voucher program, already the largest in the country, is not the motivation to misuse these defective ISTEP scores, but we’ve yet to hear any fair, good, or common sense reason why they should be relied upon for any high stakes accountability purposes, including certainly an artificial expansion of Indiana’s voucher program.