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Accountability without standardization

Fresh off being named Indiana’s 2015 superintendent of the year, Rocky Killion made national news with an innovative – if not radical - suggestion to his district’s parents who didn’t want their students taking the state-mandated, no opt-out standardized assessment.

Withdraw your children, register them for home schooling, and after the three-week testing window ends, re-enroll them in our schools.

Killion, CEO of the 2,200 West Lafayette Schools, told a well-attended Monday morning clinic at NSBA’s Annual Conference in Boston how a 2010 law linking accountability, school ratings, and teacher evaluations to standardized testing has harmed education in his state.

“We’ve seen a flight of wonderful educators out of the profession and few wanting to come in. At the nearby Purdue University School of Education, they will tell you applications for teacher ed (certifications) have dropped over 50 percent.

“We’re in a world of hurt with accountability with standardization,” he said.

To help make his point, Killion produced the 2014 documentary, Rise Above the Mark, which has been used across the country educate people on the down side of a one-size-fits-all standardized assessment approach. (More on this link: http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/06/25/indiana-superintendent-hoping-film-wil-launch-an-education-movement/#.VwuemfkrLIU)

Now, in an attempt to convince state lawmakers to consider an alternative approach to assessing academic progress, Killion and the superintendents of two neighboring districts have formed a 100-member “education coalition” to join in the campaign.

“My parents had very little knowledge of this. We have spent three years educating our communities about this. We live and breathe this,” he said. “We’re pressing with our leaders to allow us to pilot an accountability model that isn’t based on standardized testing.”

Killion said the coalition’s target for action is to develop a series of assessment models for measuring student growth over time, and then sell the idea to the legislature.

“We want to take the millions of dollars in resources that are being spent now on standards assessment and use this in different ways,” he said, spelling out four primary goals:

  • a focus on early childhood education,
  • a formal assessment that focuses on student growth over time, using pretests, middle of course tests, and post-course tests to give teachers immediate information,
  • raising the standards on teacher preparation programs so that new teachers have more of the necessary skills coming into the classroom, and
  • giving professional educators greater autonomy and mastery so that they can make educational decisions.

Killion is hoping that the promise of greater flexibility from the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act will support his group’s efforts.

“We are pushing forward in our district to try to break through for accountability without standardization,” he said. “It will take time. It will take effort. But we now have a large constituency in our community saying, ‘Leave our kids alone.’”

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