September 6, 2017

ISTEP Scores Stabilize But Nearly Half Of Students Still Fail

Article origination IPBS-RJC
ISTEP Scores Stabilize But Nearly Half Of Students Still Fail

Results from the 2017 ISTEP exam remain nearly unchanged compared to last year after an overhaul of the standardized test caused pass rates to plummet two years ago.

Only about half of Hoosier students in grades three through eight passed both parts of the required math and English assessment. The state Department of Education released results today.

For the Spring 2017 test, 51.5 percent of students passed both parts. That’s a fraction of a percent less from the previous year.

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick described the results as flatlined

“They are never going to be high enough for any of us. So schools are working hard to improve the scores. We will continue to work hard. Obviously, I-LEARN will come in and that transition will play into this,” she says. “It is good they are not decreasing but we always want to see improvement.”

The high-stakes exam counts toward teacher evaluations and school accountability A-F grades. It’s also used to assess student proficiency on the state’s academic standards.

But the test has been under fire the past few years.

In 2015, after new state English and mathematics standards were adopted, the ISTEP exam changed. It became more interactive students could be asked to highlight passages of text on a computer screen or show how they reach the answer to a math problem. 

Parents, school leaders, and lawmakers have questioned the the overall validity of the exam. The length of the test and students facing disruptions during it caused by computer glitches or incorrect instructions have also drawn widespread concern.

Fewer of the problems that plagued the ISTEP in recent years were reported last spring. But by that time lawmakers had already decided to replace the test.

The current version of the ISTEP exam will be given again, for the final time, this coming spring. A new version of the standardized test called ILEARN is under development for 2019. It is intended to be shorter and quicker to grade. It will also be adaptive completely online with test questions that change as a student gets an answer right or wrong.

Here are the average 2017 pass rates for all students in each subject:

  • English, grades 3-8: 65.2 percent
  • Math, grades: 3-8: 58.5 percent
  • Science, grades 4 and 6: 63.2 percent
  • Social studies: grades 5 and 7: 63.5 percent
  • 10th grade English: 60.7 percent
  • 10th grade math: 36.9 percent
  • 10th grade science: 57.1 percent

Saint Wendel School, a small private Catholic school in Wadesville that accepts state-funded vouchers, earned the highest score in the state for students passing both math and English, 96.5 percent.

Northpoint Elementary School, of the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. in Granger, had the second highest score at 94.8 percent.

Brownsburg Community Schools, a corporation of fewer than 9,000 students northwest of Indianapolis, had the highest pass rate of all school districts this year at 83.1 percent.
Carmel Clay Schools in Carmel had the second highest rate for a traditional public school district at 80.7 percent.

Indianapolis Public Schools had the lowest overall school corporation pass rate in the county and state, at 24.5 percent, a slight decrease from last year.

Test scores for nearly all special populations of students also saw little change. The passage rate for both math and English was 58.17 percent for white students and just more than a 1 percentage point decrease for black students. to 25 percent.

Students from low-income families who qualify for free meals remained at 66 percent.

The biggest shift was in English language learners, these are typically students new to the country who are learning to speak read English. Pass rates in the two subjects dropped 24 percentage points to a 17.39 pass rate.

Testing company Pearson has administered the ISTEP the past two years under a $38 million with the state.

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