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

ISTEP scores drop in long-delayed results

By By Paul [email protected]

ISTEP+ scores are down significantly in the Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools.

According to statistics released Wednesday, the district's overall pass rate on the English/Language Arts portion of the controversial exam dropped from 79 percent in 2014 to 62 percent in 2015, a swing of 17 percentage points. Its pass rate on the Math portion fell from 87 percent to 62 percent (a 25-point swing), and its pass rate for both sections fell from 74 percent to 50 percent (a 24-point swing).

The pass rate for science dropped from 81 percent to 68 percent (a 13-point swing).

Schools across the state also saw doleful numbers. In 2015, 67 percent of students passed the English/Language Arts section, 61 percent passed the Math section and 53 percent passed both sections. In science, the passing figure was 70 percent.

But it should all come as no surprise.

In a press release dated Jan. 4, the Indiana Department of Education stated that the 2015 scores, based on Indiana's new, more rigorous college- and career-ready standards first taught in the 2014-15 school year, are not comparable to previous years' scores. The 2015 ISTEP+ results instead establish a new baseline for student progress, reflecting a move toward higher level thinking skills.

Shawn Price, the FRHC superintendent, said the scores are a waste of time no matter what. First, they can lead to the faulty assumption that teachers and students aren't doing a good job. Also, a year has passed since students first started taking the exam, because of well-publicized delays at the state level. A new crop of students will begin testing in February, leaving no time for curriculum changes.

Letter grades based in no small part on ISTEP+ results will not be assigned to schools until Jan. 19. The state, cognizant of the effect testing changes had on performance, is examining whether last year's grades should carry through to the current cycle. Those grades are used to determine teacher raises, academic remediation and other factors that have a major impact on people and schools.

Hauser Jr./Sr. High School's last grade was an A; Hope Elementary School's last grade was a B.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz got in on the discussion of fairness Wednesday during an appearance before the House and Senate Education Committee.

"I believe in strong accountability, but I believe in accountability that makes sense," she said. "By holding schools and teachers harmless for the 2014-15 school year, Indiana will maintain accountability while acknowledging the impact of more rigorous college and career standards and a new ISTEP+ assessment. Schools and educations should not be penalized for a transition to new standards."

Ritz has said the state ultimately needs to change how it measures schools' and students' success.

"The one-size-fits-all high stakes approach of the ISTEP+ needs to end," she 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."[[In-content Ad]]