When he saw the test, he knew.
This wasn't like the ISTEP+ tests of the past.
"When the blueprints came out for what standards they were going to focus on, you could tell it was going to be a more rigorous, more complex and more difficult test," said Greater Clark County Schools Superintendent Mark Laughner. "Every time they change the test, the tools [students] use within the computer generated test would change. It's frustrating."
That feeling was echoed among many other local school administrators about the new test, ILEARN, which aims to measure student achievement and growth. Results across the state were so low the Indiana Department of Education Superintendent Jennifer McCormick will ask the state legislature to place a "hold harmless" year on 2018-19, so that schools will not be punished with lower letter grades due to the results.
"While the 2019 ILEARN results do not provide a true reflection of the performance of Indiana's schools, they do once again show us the importance of developing a modernized state legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent," McCormick said in a news release.
She added that the IDOE will ask the legislature to give the IDOE "emergency rulemaking authority to review and reestablish the state accountability system."
Locally, results mirrored those of the state. State average for passing both the English/language arts and math sections was 37.1%. Two Southern Indiana districts came in just below that number, with Greater Clark County Schools at 35.2% and West Clark Community Schools at 36.3%. Two districts were above, with Clarksville Community Schools at 42.9% and New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. at 42.6%. Charter school Rock Creek Community Academy surpassed state average with 45.8% passing both sections of the test. Meanwhile, charter school Community Montessori had 20.6%.
"When you compare us to the state average, I feel really good, but when you see the proficiency rate being low, that's concerning to us," said Tina Bennett, superintendent of Clarksville Community Schools.
"We want our parents, our students, our teachers to feel successful," said Sally Jensen, director of assessment and student information with NA-FC schools. "This feels a little bit like a gut punch, honestly, so we're going to try to figure it out and go on."
Jensen said she is already diving into the data to see what standards students missed and how to teach them differently in the future.
"[We need to] go back to the schools and leadership teams to interpret the results," Jensen said. "ILEARN is a single data point. We aren't going to make any educational decisions ... [based] on a single data point. What we want to do is look at ILEARN data and also data we collected during the 2018-19 school year."
At West Clark, Superintendent Clemen Perez-Lloyd said they are already implementing changes. She said the good side to the new ILEARN test is that there is more data that helps teachers and administrators pinpoint specific areas where students are falling behind. She said they are already developing student interventions and professional development to address those issues.
"The [instructional] team has also targeted and determined measurable goals to implement across the district to increase student performance," Perez-Lloyd said. "This includes a strategic focus on writing instruction, integrating and evaluating sources and developing a math SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Trackable) goal for the district."
At Clarksville, Bennett said existing after-school tutoring programs in addition to longer English and math class times are targeted to help address student achievement.
Laughner said GCCS staff is working on analyzing data to "develop an instructional plan that makes sense for students."
Many districts said the test is not an accurate measure of student knowledge.
"It's not a true reflection of what they've learned and what teachers teach," Perez-Lloyd said. "A test does not give you the big picture."
Community Montessori Director Barbara Burke Fondren agreed.
"To have a test where almost all grades [statewide] had a pass rate of less than 50% is incomprehensible and is deflating to all professional educators in our state," Fondren said. "Our teachers did a thorough deep dive on the results of of the test ... which resulted in frustration about how learners perform in class and on other assessments that was not consistent with this assessment.
Fondren said the answer isn't changing what's taught, but changing how it's measured.
"As a culture, we have to stop this focus on one-time assessments and put trust back into our professional educators and the direct accountability to families and school leadership, which already exists," she said.