Like most students, Indiana apparently hasn’t learned anything from ILEARN.

The only thing the annual standardized test is really good at measuring is how committed the state is to an useless, expensive, failure of an exam.

In 2021, just 28.6% of students passed both the English and math portions of the ILEARN test, the successor to the equally maligned ISTEP+ test that had equally dismal passing rates year to year.

That was a significant drop from 2019, the last time the test was administered. The drop was expected, as the impacts of COVID-19 on the end of the 2019-20 school year and the whole of the 2020-21 term were likely to have a chilling effect on performance.

But let’s make no mistake, even before COVID hit, the passing rate on the test was only 37.1%.

All Indiana students in grades 3-8 as well as high school sophomores are subjected to the multi-day, hours-long testing regimen that has a history of being plagued with technical glitches as well as inane and confusing content.

No school in the four-county area has ever topped a 50% pass rate on the ILEARN test.

This year, some schools in the region had overall pass rates below 20%.

Do we really believe that the majority of students in our local school systems are that far behind what they should know at their age?

If that were truly the case, if 7-in-10 are failing ILEARN and not up to snuff academically, why then is Indiana still giving out high school diplomas to about 9-in-10 high school seniors? If our students and education system are such failures as ILEARN would suggest, high school diplomas should be as rare as bachelor’s degrees in Indiana.

If 70% of students taking the written test for their driver’s licenses failed, we wouldn’t give licenses to 90% of those applicants.

Students are tired of taking these meaningless exams. Teachers are tired of trying to teach to the unclear and unattainable standards ILEARN is apparently trying to measure. Superintendents are tired of talking about how little stock they put into ILEARN scores as a gauge of whether their students are being properly educated.

Indiana paid $45 million over three years to implement ILEARN and the output from the test has proven to be effectively worthless.

So why is Indiana still wasting time and money on ILEARN?

Put that question on the test next year.

When all of the students get it wrong because there is no right answer to the question, don’t worry — ILEARN scores can’t get much lower or much more useless to educators anyway.

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Grace Housholder, Andy Barrand, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. We welcome readers’ comments.

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(1) comment

Robert Sparkman

I don't know much about ILEARN and the specific questions it asks, but I am concerned about graduates knowing basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

And, there is a very good chance that this will continue to decline as the "social justice" movement is anti-meritocracy which involves reduced expectations with regards to academic subjects.

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