Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana


May 6, 2013

MARK HEINIG: ISTEP snafu could affect school funding, jobs

— I certainly wouldn’t be anybody’s favorite candidate for the title of worldwide champion computer geek! I don’t have much expertise in technology, and I probably never will. If it weren’t for my wife’s astounding patience in helping me out of one computer crisis after another, I would probably be writing this with the electric typewriter that has gathered dust in my workroom closet for about 30 years.

However, I do recognize a disaster when I see one, and our first two attempts to administer ISTEP tests online certainly qualify! Wait a minute! What’s so disastrous about a school system cutting its daily testing load in half? That doesn’t seem so bad, and it might not be if the ISTEP results didn’t affect so many aspects of education. However, the impact of ISTEP is huge. School funding, educators’ job security and compensation are directly affected. However, the most important effect is not so obvious. It restricts what we teach kids and how we do it.

Years and years ago, when I began my teaching career, we learned that “teaching for the test” was one of mankind’s greatest sins since Adam ate the apple! It encouraged students to memorize facts and avoid critical thinking. These days, the need for critical thinking skills never ends. Another thing that beginning teachers used to learn was to stay in the classroom. If you lose the job, you can’t teach anybody anything — at least not in that school! So who isn’t going to teach to the test in this ballistic environment?

What about the kids who take ISTEP? The most important thing to remember is that they are kids. We can’t expect all of them to respond to the pressure with the same amount of maturity. Many will struggle to overcome varying levels of test anxiety. What we should expect is that their teachers and parents will encourage them to do as well as they possibly can. And how will kids react? The best students really want to excel. They will strive to do their very finest work on ISTEP. Others lack motivation. They won’t try as hard, or they will think they can’t succeed and won’t try at all.

There is a third group. They are right in the middle of the motivational scale. They want to do well, but they’re not sure they can. These are the students who may find unexpected changes in the testing schedule very intimidating. Their scores may or may not suffer. They’re also a pivotal group. If they do well, their teachers and their schools will also do well. If they do poorly, their teachers and their schools will not thrive but founder.

From personal experience, I know that unanticipated changes in test administration can diminish students’ test results. When I taught German, I decided to have my advanced students take the National German Examination. I had to undergo emergency surgery on the day of the test. My substitute teacher did not give the test correctly, and my students’ scores were extremely poor, far below their usual performance. The problem was the administration of the test, not the students. Most of them were placed in advanced German classes at the universities that they attended the following year. That would not have happened if their low test scores had been significant.

Competency testing has become very widespread. It’s becoming mandatory for most workers in professional or highly skilled occupations. In other words, everybody needs to pass a test or they soon will. Some of us may even live long enough to see required competency tests for politicians, but we’ll be very, very old when we do!

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana teacher and principal. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • BRIAN HOWEY: World is rising up to meet Putin's thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 28, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 28, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Happy marriages do not just happen My wife, Marylu, and I met through a mutual friend. My wife had been involved with Campus Crusade at her university, where my friend, Norman, also attended. One Christmas break, Norman invited his friends from church (including me) to a party — along

    July 27, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Truth about inflation Almost nothing in economics seems to confuse people as much as monetary inflation. That confusion leaves an intellectual void into which some of the least credible ideas of the modern world crawl.Goods and services typically have a price dictated in

    July 27, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Some laws will do us in In my opinion, we have made laws that are contrary to what they were intended. And this writer is going to let you in on his thoughts about them. One of the things that has been processed incorrectly is the child abuse law. When you tell the parent h

    July 26, 2014

  • MARK HEINIG JR.: Will Pence, Ritz and their playmates ever grow up? Many Hoosier Republicans are curious about Gov. Mike Pence’s future. He probably is, too. Assuming he doesn’t wish to return to Congress or retire from politics, he must decide whether to seek another term as governor of Indiana or run for president

    July 25, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Why congressional incumbents keep getting re-elected It’s no news that Congress is unpopular. In fact, at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its approval rating. In June, a Gallup poll found members’ standing with the American people at a historic low for a mid

    July 25, 2014

  • SEN. JIM BUCK: New laws offer help for kids Families with children who have special needs often face difficulties finding the best care or treatment for their specific circumstance. During the 2014 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed several initiatives to assist these fam

    July 24, 2014

  • BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Youth sports leagues are on troubling decline An important youth development activity is looking to end a recent losing streak. Participation in organized youth sports leagues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer declined by 4 percent between 2008-2012, according to a report in the Wall

    July 24, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 23, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller