Five Questions for Mark Daniel
29 Mar 2021
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1 You joined dozens of other Indiana superintendents in calling for suspension of ILEARN, the state's standardized test, this spring. Why?

As explained in our superintendent letter, the federal government is accepting state waivers in regard to the administration of state assessments like ILEARN because of the pandemic. Our hope was for Indiana state leaders to request a waiver eliminating ILEARN for this spring and replacing it with other assessments we currently give to our students. It is my understanding a waiver was requested in regard to the 95% completion rate rule and extended dates of administrating ILEARN.

This will assist us as FWCS has over 30% of its students attending school virtually, and the test must be given to students in person in our schools. Many parents are concerned and question if they will return their child(ren) to school in person to accommodate the testing protocol.


2 For now, the tests are proceeding. What accommodations has FWCS had to make?

To maintain social distancing in our schools while providing a safe learning environment for our students, we are making changes in who will attend each day during the testing window. For instance, to accommodate middle school students and allow for social distancing, all students currently attending on a blended schedule (Group 1/Group 2) will learn entirely remotely April 19-23 while remote students attend in person that same week. Elementary schools will work out their own schedules to bring remote students into the building on staggered schedules to avoid having too many students testing at once.

Schedule changes for students mean adjustments in transportation and nutrition services, but our teams have been working on it to meet the needs of students. We understand these changes may not be convenient for all families, but we believe it provides the best opportunity to keep students safe during the state's mandatory, in-person testing. 

3 State education officials insist it is necessary to take a snapshot of where students are on learning this year. Is that true, or are there other ways to do so?

For over 30 years, we have had "snapshot" testing which has been used to monitor student learning in primarily math and English. I am a firm believer the most important data exist at the classroom level.

Using a nationally normed test is a "snapshot" that on the day of the test is important, but not as important as the daily classroom data.

These are the data that drive teachers to modify their lessons and provide interventions for their students. I strongly favor a greater focus on classroom data and sharing that data with state and federal departments of education.


4 You have experience with public school districts in Illinois and Michigan. Do those states place the same strong emphasis on standardized testing?

Standardized testing is nationwide. The emphasis is great no matter where you live in the USA. As explained previously, I favor classroom testing and the continued refining of "data tools" to provide our teachers/practioners immediate data analysis and best practices to assist students in the mastery of standards. Instead of spending limited funds on national exams, I recommend spending funds on testing at the classroom level that be immediately used to improve student learning today.


5 What has been the greatest challenge this past school year?

Without a doubt, the uncertainty of learning because of COVID-19 for our students, parents, teachers and our community. Undoubtedly, my solace from the pandemic has been the reaffirmation of the tremendous impact our educators have on our community. I sincerely hope this is not forgotten.

All FWCS teachers and staff are heroes. And our community is better because of them.

This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"Five Questions for Mark Daniel"  29 Mar 2021: