Behning: ILEARN: An important snapshot of student learning

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Monday, September 9, 2019 11:13 am

Indiana spent the last several years taking a critical look at the type of annual assessment students take and how the results are used. This led to eliminating the troubled ISTEP exam and creating ILEARN – Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network.

The Indiana Department of Education thoughtfully created an exam that is much more reflective of Indiana’s college- and career-ready standards. Hoosier educators played a large role in the development of ILEARN, with more than 1,000 providing input on what the statewide assessment should look like, and also helping determine benchmarks for student performance.

Why do we need a statewide assessment? Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal accountability system for schools, states must administer an annual summative exam to receive federal funding. Without ILEARN, Indiana schools stand to lose out on millions of classroom dollars.

Education leaders anticipated some growing pains as we transitioned to ILEARN.

Because this is the first year of the new test, a drop in scores was not unexpected. We experienced a similar drop when Indiana transitioned to more rigorous standards in 2015.

ILEARN is taken differently than past assessments. Instead of filling in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil, this exam is completed on a computer, and increases or decreases in difficulty as students answer questions correctly or incorrectly. This provides a more comprehensive look of student learning.

These transition-year results are not a sign that Hoosier students are falling behind. Lawmakers, the governor and the superintendent of public instruction agree the scores should not negatively impact educators and schools. We are working together to ensure they are held harmless, since test results are a factor in teacher pay and school grades.  

Indiana has high – yet realistic – education standards that ensure students are prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education after high school. ILEARN is the most accurate exam Indiana has had in years, and these results are comparable to the scores students received on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national exam for students in fourth and eighth grade.

While the results are not the ones we had hoped for, the value of Hoosier students and teachers is not defined by test scores, but by the learning being accomplished in the classroom. ILEARN is just one snapshot of this learning, and despite these low scores, still provides helpful insight.


State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 91,
which includes portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

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