ISTEP results above state average for local schoolsOctober 4, 2018
By LEANN BURKE
Area schools continue to perform above Indiana’s statewide average on the ISTEP test, according to the test results released to the public Wednesday.
After a grading snafu that affected scores statewide and delayed the release of scores, the Indiana Department of Education opened to the public results from the spring 2018 ISTEP test, which is a standardized test given to all Indiana third- through eighth-graders. Sophomores also take a version of the ISTEP test, dubbed the graduation qualifying exam.
According to data from the IDOE, 51 percent of Indiana students passed both the English and math tests, 58 percent of students passed the math test and 64 percent of students passed the English test.
Locally, 64 percent of Northeast Dubois students passed both, 76 percent passed math and 71 percent passed English. At Southwest Dubois, 50 percent of students passed both English and math, 62 percent passed math and 60 percent passed English. At Southeast Dubois, 73 percent of students passed both tests, 85 percent passed math and 78 percent passed English.
“Overall I’m happy with how our students did this year,” said Ryan Haas, Pine Ridge Elementary principal and testing coordinator for Southeast Dubois Schools. “There’s room for improvement, but there’s always room for improvement.”
At Greater Jasper, 64 percent of students passed both, 71 percent passed math and 74 percent passed English. At North Spencer schools, 73 percent of students passed both tests, 83 percent passed math and 79 percent passed English.
Students at Holy Trinity Catholic School performed best with 79 percent of students passing both tests, 88 percent passing math and 83 percent passing English. Holy Trinity does not give the sophomore level test, as the school doesn’t teach high school grades.
Overall, local schools performed about the same, if not a few percentage points better on the ISTEP test compared to 2017. Southwest Dubois is the exception, with passing rates dropping between 2017 and 2018. In 2017, 57 percent of Southwest’s students passed both tests compared with 50 percent this year.
Statewide, passing rates dropped between 2017 and 2018. Last year, 52 percent of students statewide passed both tests, 1 percentage point higher than this year. Similarly, 59 percent of students statewide passed the math test in 2017 compared with 58 percent this year, and 65 percent of students passed the English exam in 2017 compared with 64 percent of students this year.
For years, school administrators have questioned the usefulness of ISTEP test results and lamented their connection to state accountability grades, teacher pay and school funding. This year was no exception.
“I’ve never felt like it was a true measure of the learning that goes on in our schools,” said Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang.
Still, administrators look at the test scores, particularly on an individual level, to see how students are progressing and where they might need extra help. Students receive two scores on the ISTEP, the performance score, which is how well they did on that year’s test, and a growth score that shows how much they improved over the last year. Haas said school staff always want to see high growth scores, especially where fourth-graders are concerned. Students first take the ISTEP in third grade, so the fourth-grade growth score is the first time the ISTEP test measures students’ growth. High growth scores are a good sign for teachers.
“It shows us we’re on the right path,” Haas said.
ISTEP scores are just one of many progress measurement tools schools use, such as regular progress tests and class work.
School administrators also use the test scores in their teacher evaluations, as state law requires evaluations to include a data component.
ISTEP scores have more bearing at the state level where they are a large part of how the IDOE and Indiana State Board of Education determine accountability grades for schools and corporations, with the most bearing given to the growth scores. Those grades help the state determine teacher pay, school funding and possible state takeover. Local schools tend to get As and Bs.
This spring, students and school staff will have a new standardized test to take. The IDOE is phasing out the ISTEP test in favor of the new ILEARN test, which stands for Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Readiness Network. Like ISTEP, ILEARN scores will be factored into teacher evaluations and school accountability. Unlike ISTEP, ILEARN will be fully online and adaptive, meaning that each segment will start with a question of average difficulty, then get easier or harder depending on if the student answers correctly.
Adaptive tests are more personalized and can give educators a better idea of where students are with materials. Rather than only showing whether a student is below or above average, adaptive tests show how far above or below average an individual student is, according to a handout from the IDOE.
See the statewide ISTEP results here.
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