With the newly-released ILEARN results showing plummeting scores across the board, Jefferson County superintendents weighed in on the assessments — and expressed a lot of frustration.

“The ILEARN test is just another example of waste, and a top-down bureacracy that just doesn’t get it,” said Jeff Studebaker, superintendent of Madison Consolidated Schools.

“The amount of money we spend on these tests and the outcomes are not indicative of what kids are able to do,” Studebaker said. “It is shocking that we as a state are allowing the legislature to spend this kind of money on a test that doesn’t get us the information that we need and it’s not useful.”

He said the test isn’t useful because schools don’t even receive the data until school lets out, and students are moving to the next grade.

A better assessment, he said, are the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests the school uses to prep students for standardized testing.

Students take the test twice, allowing schools to monitor data halfway through the year and know which kids need more help, he said.

One big issue schools report with ILEARN is the student adjustment to a new testing format. Unlike traditional tests, ILEARN is designed to customize more to each student and present the student with a harder question if a correct answer is given.

Southwestern superintendent Jeff Bates said this confuses some students. Students very well may know the material, but because of the format, they may give wrong answers, he said.

“You’ve got some kids who might finish a portion of the test in 15 minutes, and you’ve got other kids who might take an hour because they’re getting the questions right,” Bates said.

Because of this, Bates said, Southwestern will no longer use the NWEA as a practice test and look for something more akin to the ILEARN format. While a challenge, Bates said the district will do the best it can.

“We’re just going to keep trying to look at our data and see areas we need to concentrate more on and do the best we can,” Bates said. “We have great teachers and we have great students. It’s frustrating for everyone, but we’re not trying to make excuses and we’re going to hit the ground running and do the best we can.”

It’s a challenge for the teachers to meet new test standards, Bates said, because it’s hard for him or for the teachers to know what to emphasize to prepare for the test.

“You’re kind of throwing darts and hoping you hit the bullseye, but you don’t really know what the bullseye is,” Bates said.

Studebaker said Madison also will also have its students practice the new format, plus shore up gaps in math and guided reading. But the broad picture approach to educating won’t change, he said.

“We believe that if we provide high-quality instruction to those kids, then once we get past the implementation barriers and weird formatting issues, whatever it is the test is presenting, the kids will rise to the occasion.”

Studebaker said he does not “put much stock” into the way legislators calculate growth and tell teachers what they should be doing with students. He said he tries to minimize the impact scores have on teacher evaluations.

He also said frequent changes to state testing — like the $45 million implementaiton of ILEARN — are part of a plan to privatize education and intentionally show that public schools can’t meet state benchmarks. That money could have easily gone to teacher salaries, he said.

“Please don’t get me wrong; I know schools should be held to an accountability standard, it just needs to make sense, and this does not,” he said.