April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

FRHC students prepare for ISTEP exams

By By Paul [email protected]

Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools are predicting an improvement in ISTEP+ scores this year, even as the future of the test remains in doubt.

Now it's time for students to perform to expectations.

The local school system's two public schools began administering the standardized test this week, just two months after the state belatedly released scores and letter grades from the previous school year.

Due to statewide changes in the scoring system, Flat Rock-Hawcreek last year saw its overall pass rate on the English/Language Arts portion drop from 79 percent in 2014 to 62 percent in 2015, the pass rate on the Math portion drop from 87 percent to 62 percent, and its pass rate for both sections drop from 74 percent to 50 percent. The pass rate for science dropped from 81 percent to 68 percent.

Jessica Poe, principal of Hope Elementary School, said a prediction tool called Acuity convinces her that students at the elementary school level will see a 10-percent spike in ISTEP+ scores this year. She explained that Acuity data, collected three times a year, shows the progress for every student, including those with higher abilities. It also gives teachers and administrators a breakdown of each child's remediation needs.

Hauser Jr./Sr. High School Principal J.P. Mayer said Acuity similarly predicts improvement at the middle and high school levels, although he did not specify what percentage of improvement to expect. He said Acuity in past years accurately predicted how well students performed on ISTEP. That history leads him to confidently conclude that Hauser will score at or above the state average, as always.

ISTEP+ is administered statewide to students in Grades 3 through 8.

At least for now.

Discussions about discarding the 30-year-old standardized test gained momentum recently when the state dropped national Common Core standards. Now, even Gov. Mike Pence wants to see something new put in place that more reliably shows the level of students' performance in key educational categories and the improvements those students have made since the previous testing cycle.

"The one-size-fits-all high stakes approach of the ISTEP+ needs to end," State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said in a press release. "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."

Getting rid of ISTEP would be fine with some local school officials.

Shawn Price, the FRHC superintendent, has said the scores are flawed and can lead to the faulty assumption that teachers and students aren't doing a good job. Mayer and Poe did not disagree, but defended the exam for providing helpful information -- information the school system can use to identify weak areas -- considering that every school and school district is at the same disadvantage.

Some lawmakers have suggested that ISTEP+ should be eliminated by July 2017.[[In-content Ad]]