Schools happy with high school ISTEP scores


The Indiana Department of Education released the results of the 2018-19 high school ISTEP test this week, and area high schools performed close to or above state average.

Statewide, 62.4% of high school students who took the test passed the English/language arts test, 35.3% passed the math test and 33.8% passed both.

Locally, passing rates trended higher. At Greater Jasper, 81.4% of students passed the English test, 53.4% passed the math test and 53% passed both.

At Northeast Dubois, 61.3% of students passed the English test, 51.6% passed the math test and 43.5% passed both.

Southeast Dubois saw 53.3% of students pass the English test, 53.3% passed the math test and 40% passed both.

For Southwest Dubois, 60.3% passed the English test, 43.8% passed the math test and 41.3% passed both.

At North Spencer, 80.4% of students passed the English test, 68.8% passed the math test and 65.2% passed both.

Jasper High School Principal Brian Wilson said he’s happy with how the students performed on the test, particularly on the English exam where 81.4% of students passed.

“I think that’s pretty outstanding,” he said.

He added that this is the best the school has performed on the ISTEP test since the state changed its format in 2015. According to Indiana Department of Education data, in the 2015-16 school year, 74.6% of Jasper High students who took the test passed English and 54.3% passed math; in 2016-17, 68.7% passed English and 46.7% passed math; and in 2017-18, 76.7% passed English and 49.3% passed math.

Angie Burch, director of learning and assessment at North Spencer, said she’s happy with how Heritage Hills High School students performed as well.

“Obviously, each year it fluctuates a little bit, but we usually come out in the same range,” she said.

She attributes the school’s regular success on the ISTEP to the faculty’s focus on reading and comprehension. Each day at Heritage Hills starts with 20 minutes of reading. That exercise helps not only with the English exam, Burch said, but also with the creative thinking and problem solving required for the math exam.

Northeast Dubois Director of Improvement, Assessment and Technology Andy Chinn said he’s pleased with how his students performed as well.

“We want to do well, and we feel like we’ve done well,” he said.

He added that the corporation generally takes the test results “with a grain of salt,” explaining that it’s one test. For that reason, the school tries not to overemphasize the test and let it dictate their teaching.

Southwest Dubois Curriculum Director Melissa Boeglin shared similar thoughts.

“There are a lot of other tests we use throughout the year to determine if our students need mediation,” she said.

Karen Kippenbrock, director of testing at Southeast Dubois, did not return calls for comment.

Indiana high school students are the last students still taking the ISTEP test. Students in third through eighth grades transitioned to ILEARN this year. Those results were released earlier this month and showed a decline in pass rates statewide, leading many educators, State Superintendent of Schools Jennifer McCormick and Gov. Eric Holcomb, and some legislators to call for a hold-harmless year in the test’s effects on school accountability.

The lower grades transitioned to ILEARN, but high school students may be saying goodbye to an Indiana standardized test all together. This year’s sophomores will be the last class required to take the ISTEP as a graduation qualifying exam. Beginning with this year’s freshmen, students will qualify for graduation by following one of several career- and college-readiness plans available through the Graduation Pathways program. Some of those pathways still include standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT and military ASVAB test. The pathways also include classes geared toward a student’s post-high-school plans.

For the past few years, high school students who don’t pass the 10th grade ISTEP have been able to choose a graduation pathway instead. Wilson and Boeglin both said that has led to some students not taking the test as seriously.
“Sometimes now, it’s hard to motivate kids to do their best,” Wilson said.

Still, he said, teachers and other staff remind the students of the importance of always doing their best work.

Going forward, the state will still require high school students to take an ILEARN science exam after completing biology, and there is the possibility of the state developing a new standardized test for high school students that is geared toward the state’s focus on college and career readiness. Using college entrance exams is also an option.

The state must test high school students’ progress somehow, as federal law requires testing students each year in English and math and, occasionally, in science.

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