Scores from the final ISTEP test were released last week, showing little change from previous years. What is the most unique, and perhaps best part of the results: this is the last time parents, students and teachers will receive scores from what many have called “disastrous” statewide testing.
Smith-Green Community Schools saw a slight increase in some portions of the test, while many other areas schools had decreases. With a less than 50-percent pass rate in most categories, most anyone who experiences the test has become increasingly frustrated with it in recent years.
Smith-Green shows 68.9 percent passing in English compared with 57.9 percent at Whitley County Consolidated and 56.4 percent at Whitko Community Schools.
In math, 31.1 percent passed at SGCS, compared with 28.7 at Whitko and 21.5 at WCCS.
Churubusco Elementary School scores saw a 2-percent increase from 2017 and the junior-senior high school’s scores improved by 6.1 percent.
Though SGCS Superintendent Dan Hile is pleased with the slight increases, they aren’t something to boast about.
“It’s slightly encouraging for us, but the test keeps changing. It’s hard to keep up with the changes,” Hile said.
More changes are on the way, as 2019 is expected to be the first year of the state’s new ILEARN test, a response to the debacle of ISTEP.
Though encouraged that the era of ISTEP is over, there is much uncertainty surrounding ILEARN.
“I hope ILEARN will be better. I’m hopeful that they’re taking the feedback they’ve gotten from ISTEP to make some changes,” Hile said.
One of the biggest concerns regarding ISTEP is the lack of usefulness for teachers, students and parents. The test is administered in the spring, and results don’t come back until the following fall. Results offer nothing more than a score, with no suggestions on areas to improve.
Additionally, there have been continual issues with test administration and accuracy of results.
“We’re continually frustrated with how ISTEP has been,” Hile said.
School staff, students and parents want to see the children succeed, but oftentimes the test is deflating.
“We have teachers who want to see our students pass these assessments and be successful in everything we do at school,” Hile said. “It’s difficult to feel that you’re giving such a great effort, and see the students being judged by a test score.”
Even students who typically receive good grades in class find themselves struggling with the ISTEP.
“We’ve had some traditionally strong students who score poorly on the test. They know the pressure that’s on them for that test,” Hile said. “Kids get exhausted with the test. We (only) have so many days to get it done — multiple tests for several hours in a two-week period. Are they truly set up to do their best?”
With more than half of the students at many schools struggling to earn a passing result, many are quite discouraged.
“For a child that age to get a result back that they failed, it’s difficult to process that in a healthy way,” Hile said. “They think they’re not smart.”
After a student fails the test multiple times, Hile said, some students get an attitude that they won’t be able to pass the test.
“A lot of students stopped giving their best effort, and feel defeated before they even start,” Hile said.
Smith-Green, as well as many other area school districts, put more emphasis on NWEA scores, another form of testing that gives immediate feedback and shows areas where students need improvement.
“That gives us data throughout the year that we can use to help the child improve and see their strengths and weaknesses. ISTEP is just a score and doesn’t tell us anything. It’s not timely.”
Hile’s message to parents if their child didn’t pass?
“Help your child to feel encouraged. Their worth and value as a student is not determined by one score. There’s so much more,” he said.
At the elementary level, Churubusco Elementary School was the only county school to see an increase in scores, with 46.6 percent passing both math and English. Northern Heights Elementary School, though it had a 5-percent decrease from last year, remains as the school with the highest pass rate — 55 percent.
Mary Raber Elementary School saw the largest decrease at 6.8 percent, and has the lowest pass rate in the county at 34.4 percent.
At the middle school level, 54.6 percent of students passed both English and math at Indian Springs Middle School, a 2 percent increase from last year. SGCS’s junior/senior high school had an overall pass rate of 44.8 percent. Whitko Middle School’s scores decreased by 3.6 percent to 35.7.