ISTEP pass rates were officially released throughout the state on Jan. 6 and despite the drops predicted by the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation in letters written to the governor and legislators last February – EVSC pass rates decreased fewer percentage points than other school districts that are similar in size and demographics.
These scores announced today, are coming to schools throughout the state almost a full year after taking the test. Normally results of ISTEP are returned in late spring or early summer, giving educators time to study the data and look at specific student results to develop plans to help students improve.
“The lack of timely data from the 2015 ISTEP test is a huge disservice to our students, families, teachers, schools, and communities. At this point, there is little actionable use for the data,” said Superintendent David Smith. “No patient would tolerate their physician making an action plan based upon year-old data.” But, Smith added, the EVSC has continued to utilize other metrics and strategies to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed.
What EVSC is seeing is that its strategies are working, and student growth is evident in many areas, Smith said.
Some of the strategies include specific, targeted extra help or interventions for students; as well as remediation in known areas of need. Additionally, Professional Learning Communities are established in every school – where teachers pore over student data and work together to plan and strategize how best to teach subjects; and how to help struggling students or how to further encourage high achievers.
Catherine Minihan, EVSC associate superintendent for strategy and accountability, also noted that in looking at the success and growth in students in the third grade last school year, “when you set a high bar for students, they can get there – but you need to set the goal and stick with it, and then we need to give students time to accomplish it. She said last year’s third grade students would have been kindergarten students when the state and EVSC first began teaching a more rigorous college and career readiness curriculum, and a different, more technology-rich type of preparation, so their performance is an indication that our students are quite capable of reaching this higher bar. The 2014-15 ISTEP was a new test, measuring new, more rigorous college and career standards, with multi-dimensional testing types – including tech-enhanced questions. Because it is a new test -- the pass rates are not comparable to previous year's tests.
While the EVSC was pleased with the growth many students have shown; and the positive comparison to other similar schools in the state, Minihan pointed out that the EVSC still has many unresolved cases that were submitted to the testing company CTB.
“We still have 500 test results that came back as ‘undetermined’ which is a much higher number than in previous years, and we have received minimal information regarding these scores. Additionally we have students whose scores from Part 1 and Part 2 have not been matched; computer generated responses that were not scored, and a student who took the test in Braille whose results never came back,” Minihan said. Correspondence with CTB has been taking place since the first iteration of scores was released to schools in November and most of these have not been resolved by CTB.
Smith thanked teachers and families for the hard work and the patience in waiting for results. “We have already moved on,” he said, and “are continuing to use the strategies we know are working.”
The first round of this year’s ISTEP tests begin the end of February.