ISTEP scores released after months of delays, problems

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After months of delays, the Department of Education has publicly released the 2015 ISTEP scores.

The results are the lowest the state has seen in five years. ISTEP scores are used to evaluate teachers, schools and students on their performance.

In 2015, 53.5 percent of students passed both the Mathematics and English Language Arts sections. Sixty-one percent passed the mathematics section and 67.3 percent passed the English Language Arts sections.

These scores are down significantly from 2014, when 74.7 percent of students passed both sections. The Department of Education said the most recent results are not comparable to previous school years, since this is the first test based on new, more rigorous standards.

The new “College and Career Ready” standards came about after lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence withdrew Indiana from Common Core standards. Many teachers have said there wasn’t enough time to prepare students for the new standards.

“I think when you look at the late date that those standards were rolled out, and the short amount of time that teachers had to prepare for this one test. I don’t think it really shows the quality of instruction that’s in the classroom, I think it gives us a misguided view of what effective schools look like if we use this data right now,” said Moira Clark, the principal at Maplewood Elementary School in Wayne Township.

Indianapolis Public Schools’ results were among the lowest in the state. Only 29 percent of IPS students passed both the Mathematics and English Language Arts sections. Thirty-eight percent passed mathematics, and 43.2 percent passed English Language Arts.

After the scores were released, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz called for changes to Indiana’s student assessment program.

Ritz released this statement in response to the results:

“After years of legislative changes at both the state and federal level, our schools were asked once again to implement new standards and subject students to a new assessment without time to transition.  The 2015 ISTEP+ results have established a new baseline for Indiana’s progress towards college and career ready benchmarks, and I want to thank our students, educators and administrators for their hard work during such a challenging school year.  I look forward to seeing student growth towards these new, more rigorous benchmarks moving forward.

“My top priority is the educational, social, and emotional well-being of Hoosier students.  That is why I believe that is it time for Indiana to move away from the costly, lengthy, pass/fail ISTEP+ assessment.  The one-size-fits-all high stakes approach of the ISTEP+ needs to end.  Instead, Indiana should move towards a streamlined, individualized, student-centered assessment that provides students, families and educators with quick feedback about how a student is performing and how they have grown during a school year.

“Moving forward, I will work with the General Assembly to oversee the development of this assessment so we can better serve each individual student’s needs.  In addition, as the Chair of the State Board of Education, I will recommend action to ensure that each school’s accountability grade is determined by meaningful measures and not just by test scores.”

Clark told 24-Hour News 8 she is not focused on the ISTEP results. Clark said she is more concerned with students and their success in the classroom every day.

“We’ll use the data to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our kids, but we’re not going to get overly worried about it. The best thing we can do is prepare our kids so when they get in that testing environment they’re comfortable and if there are glitches, they’re flexible that they can work through them, just like we have to work through those kinds of things in life,” said Clark. “I think it was not an optimal environment for testing. So, I think that’s why we look at that test, as it’s going to be a baseline for these new, more rigorous standards.”

Many schools reported glitches and malfunctions during the testing process. Clark said some students understood the content, but struggled with the test’s format.

Clark agreed with Ritz that there needs to be changes to how Indiana measures schools’ and students’ success. Clark said a student, teacher or school’s success should not be based solely on one high-stakes test. She said that test does not always accurately reflect how the students are doing.

“When we look at just one test, as an indicator as the quality of the whole school — I think that’s a little misguided. I think there are a lot of things that are happening in schools every day besides that one test. I often think the one stress level that I hear from parents is the IREAD test. We have 8-year-olds that are taking this high-stakes test, that might mean they’re going to be retained in 3rd grade, and we know — if they can read or not before they take that test,” said Clark. “Sometimes, it’s just the stress of the test or the medium of taking it online that’s getting in the way of them being successful. So, in lieu of that test — trust that we as educators know, that we’re taking their reading levels and we’re monitoring their progress all the time. And we know if they can read or not.”

Wednesday morning, public hearings about ISTEP will begin at the Statehouse. House and Senate committees are considering bills that would keep ISTEP scores from affecting a teacher’s pay for at least one year. Lawmakers also want to take a one-year break from the school grades that are tied to ISTEP. Republicans, Democrats and the governor have said they’re behind the idea. The hearings begins at 8 a.m.

Clark said she wants lawmakers to respect teachers and listen to them during the legislative session.

“Trust the educators. When I go to a doctor, I trust that the doctor has the expertise to give me the information I need. I would like them to trust that we as educators know what we’re doing, and that we’re doing what’s best for kids,” said Clark, “We’re never satisfied. The scores statewide were lower, so nobody’s happy with that. Everybody wants their kids to be successful. I’ve been in education a long time — there’s going to be a lot of changes out there in the political arena, and we have to just give kids the best instruction every day.”

Wayne Township Schools saw 39.3 percent of students pass both the Mathematics and English Language Arts sections in 2015. That’s down from 64.6 percent in 2014. Forty-eight percent of students passed the mathematics section and 54.1 percent passed the English Language Arts portion.

Click on the links below to download results:

ISTEP Statewide Results

ISTEP Public Schools Results

ISTEP Non-Public Schools Results

ISTEP Science and Social Studies Results

ISTEP Mathematics and English and Language Arts Results

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