Ball State course aims to educate Hoosiers on standardized tests

The day before fall semester, sophomore Kayla Snyder dropped all her classes. She said her parents thought she was crazy, but she had just fallen in love with a different course.

Snyder decided to take the 15-credit hour course, “Promoting Assessment Literacy” through the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

The course would give Snyder the chance to help Hoosiers as the state transitions from Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP) to a new system called ILEARN or Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network.

The course hopes to fill in what families need to know about ILEARN and standardized testing, Snyder said.

“In the current system right now, there’s a lot of decisions being made around these tests scores… Those decisions are going to affect students,” Snyder said. “If people don’t know what that means… they don’t have a voice in the matter.”

The student-driven course has partnered with the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) to help families learn about these topics, said course adviser Lynne Stallings.

“What we are trying to do is figure out what Hoosiers know, don’t know, want to know and need to know about standardized testing so we can have more productive conversations about students learning,” Stallings said. “[We want to] reach out to families better to get this information there.”

Students in the course work to create materials to educate families on ILEARN, and also assessment literacy, Stallings said. Assessment literacy is the knowledge of all types of assessments including standardized testing.

By having ten students from different majors collaborate, Stallings said the course can better promote conversations and information of assessment literacy.

More than just teachers need to understand assessments, said Ben Polk, senior business administration and marketing major. Often a negative environment forms around tests like ISTEP because parents don’t fully understand them.

“Having a dialogue around standardized testing takes a lot of the toxic environment [away],” Polk said. “People will see the value in standardized testing — there is value there.”

IDOE has many resources geared toward teachers, but not many to families and students, Polk said. Students plan to create materials and promote conversation to fill in this gap.

While students are unsure of what all the materials will look like, Polk said he is currently designing infographics for IDOE’s twitter. The graphics will contain information on types of assessments and ILEARN.

“It’s very important I think for a community to be based on that idea of assessment literacy,” said sophomore English education major Elli Kirkpatrick. “Having every person in the community understand standardized testing… only encourages academic success for students.”

Contact Liz Rieth with comments at or on Twitter @liz_rieth.


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