SYRACUSE — Indiana Department of Education released spring 2016 ISTEP+ results Thursday, Nov. 17. It was the second year of a new state assessment for grades three to eight based on Indiana’s more rigorous college and career ready standards. A new baseline was established for ISTEP+ in spring 2015.
Wawasee Community School Corp. had 59 percent of its students pass the English/language arts portion of ISTEP+, while 55.1 percent passed the math portion. Broken down more specifically by schools and grade levels, third-graders at each of the three elementary schools passed the English/language arts portion at a rate of nearly 70 percent, while only at Syracuse Elementary did the third-graders exceed 60 percent in passing math at 63.9 percent.
For the other two elementary grades of four and five, only North Webster Elementary fifth-graders approached a 70 percent passing rate (68.8 percent passed both English/language arts and math).
Middle school students ranged from about 38 percent to nearly 70 percent in passing English/language arts and math. Wawasee Middle School had slightly more than 60 percent of its students in grades six and seven pass English/language arts, but only slightly more than 50 percent of eighth-graders passed. Nearly 70 percent of Milford sixth-graders passed the math portion, but slightly less than 40 percent of eighth-graders did.
At Wawasee High School, less than 40 percent of sophomores passed the English/language arts and math portions.
Joy Goshert, assistant superintendent for WCSC, said Wawasee, as it has for several years, continues to have issues and concerns with ISTEP+. There were significant technology glitches with the high school sophomores and some Milford Middle School students.“We had students who were unable to get into the system or whose computers froze and had to wait as long as 30 minutes for someone to get them to restart the assessment because of how the Pearson online testing system was organized for restarting tests,” she said.
Goshert noted there are especially concerns regarding the validity of the results for English/language arts for 10th grade and for Milford Middle School eighth-graders. “At the high school, the first time some of our high school students were assessed on the college and career readiness standards for English/language arts, 68 percent of those students passed that portion of the assessment in spring 2015,” she said. “To have a passing rate of low 30 percent the following year over the same standards cannot be an accurate reflection of what our students know and can do.”
In spring 2015, Milford seventh-graders had a 64.6 percent passing rate for English/language arts but dropped to 38.2 percent as eighth-graders. In math, seventh-graders passed at a rate of 53.1 percent in 2015 but dropped to 39.7 percent as eighth-graders in 2016. “Knowing there were some technology issues, we cannot believe this is an accurate representation of our students’ knowledge and skills,” Goshert said.
Wawasee uses NWEA, an individualized adaptive assessment in grades kindergarten to eighth. Goshert noted it provides consistent data and information to impact instruction when state assessments continue to change. “While we are very much in support of assessment and accountability, the current state assessment and accountability system is broken and needs to be fixed.”
Originally ISTEP+ was to be administered for the last time in the spring of 2017, but it may be kept an additional year. A recommendation is to be made by Dec. 1.
Several superintendents shared their concerns about ISTEP+ at the Nov. 16 state board of education meeting and District II of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, which includes Dr. Tom Edington of Wawasee, shared concerns in a letter submitted to the ISTEP+ panel.