La Porte County schools show mixed ISTEP results
La PORTE COUNTY – La Porte County schools showed mixed results in 2018 ISTEP+ test results released Wednesday, but a local educator says other factors must be taken into consideration when assessing a student’s true academic achievement.
Overall, the Indiana Department of Education said, “Performance remained stable across content areas in grades 3-8, with slight increases in grade 8 English/Language Arts and grade 3 Mathematics.”
Area students in that grade range fared best in the New Prairie United School Corp., with 76.4 percent of students passing the English/language arts portion of the exam, 75.6 percent in math, 68.2 percent in science, and 68.0 percent in social studies.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, students in the Tri-Township Consolidated School District fared worst in English and math, with 45 percent passing English, and 28.6 percent math; while students in Michigan City Area Schools fared worst in science, with just 35.9 percent passing, and in social studies, with just 35.4 percent passing.
MCAS students did better in English, with 53.8 percent passing, while 49.8 percent passed the math portion of the test.
For La Porte Community Schools, passing percentage rates were 74.9 for English, 68.8 for math, and 69.6 for science and social studies.
The statewide average was a 64.1 percentage passage in English, 58.3 in math, 57.9 in science and 58.6 in social studies.
“We don’t believe these scores truly reflect the quality of learning and instruction in our schools,” MCAS Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins said. “We are working with state instructional specialists to better align our curriculum to the state standards, so sophomores are better prepared to show what they know.”
Cathy Bildhauser, director of curriculum for MCAS, said, “These assessments are just one measure of student performance. For example, at MCHS we have more students taking and passing AP tests, earning dual credits and industry certifications than ever before. That’s why our college and career readiness indicators are improving.”
On the grade 10 portion of the tests, students at Marquette Catholic High School fared best in English and math, with 87.9 percent passing English and 44.8 percent math. New Prairie High School students fared best in science, with 60.5 percent passing. Michigan City High students fared worst in English with 38.5 percent passing, and math, with just 15.7 percent passing. Westville students did the worst on the science portion of the exam, with just 8.3 percent passing; and Michigan City came in at 13.4 percent.
At La Porte High School, 56.8 percent of students passed English, 39.6 percent math and 15.9 science. The state average was 58.9 percent in English, 36.2 percent in math and 52.1 percent in science.
“Overall, our ISTEP scores held steady this year, with the exception of our high school, which saw a decline despite continued improvement on other college and career readiness indicators,” Eason-Watkins said.
Bildhauser said MCAS “assesses student progress in many ways – ISTEP is one piece of that. We use other methods (such as student work, classroom observation, unit tests) to focus on individual students –- tracking their needs and their growth. The end goal is to tailor instruction to meet students where they are and take them to higher levels of learning.”
In the South Central Community School DIstrict, students fared well in the grade 3-8 exams, with 67.2 percent passing English, 70.7 percent passing math, 72.4 passing science and 64.8 passing social studies. At the 10th grade level, 73.5 passed English, 36.8 percent passed math and 50 percent passed science.
“We accept the scores as presented by the IDOE and will continue to work diligently to improve upon these scores as the new assessment, ILEARN, is utilized in the spring of 2019,” Dr. Theodore Stevens, superintendent of the South Central Community Schools, said.
“We believe that assessment and accountability are important, but know that numerous other factors go into the well-rounded education that we provide our students at South Central.”
Asked if ISTEP+ was a fair way of assessing student progress, Bildhauser said, “There has been a great deal of debate surrounding ISTEP over the past decade. The state has experienced issues with the test vendor, as well as with computerized testing and scoring.”
ISTEP+ assesses more rigorous Indiana Academic Standards adopted in 2014 for English/language arts and math, according to the Department of Education. The tests assess English and math in grades 3-8 and 10; science in grades 4, 6, and 10; and social studies in grades 5 and 7.
Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a statement, “ISTEP+ is one of the many tools Indiana uses to measure student achievement and this year’s results indicate we are moving in the right direction. Indiana’s classrooms are full of dedicated educators who spend each day preparing our children for academic success, and I am grateful for their hard work.”
Should parents be concerned by the seemingly low scores? Not necessarily, Bildhauser said.
“Parents should use the results to understand where their child is in relation to the grade level expectations set by the state.”
And that is just what teachers and administrators are doing, she said.
“Our teachers are dedicated to improving instruction and achievement in our classrooms. We are in the midst again of realigning curriculum and assessments based on the new ILEARN assessment that will be given this year. They are continuously monitoring data on their students and using a variety of methods to ensure their students stay on track.
“Parents can assist by making learning and educational experiences a priority – staying in communication with their child’s teacher, reading to and with children daily, ensuring healthy eating and sleeping habits, limiting screen time, etc. It’s also important that students receive a good night’s rest every day, so that they are prepared for the rigor of school.”
Indiana’s 10th grade students will likely continue taking the ISTEP+ exams through 2022, until the transition to the Graduation Pathways, according to DOE. But the test is being replaced for younger students. State education officials are preparing a new test starting in spring 2019 for elementary and middle-school students called ILEARN, or Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Readiness Network, which Bildhauser calls “a more computer adaptive test.”
“ILEARN assesses the same Indiana Academic Standards as ISTEP+, but educators reframed content priorities and item presentation to ensure each item solicits evidence of proficiency based on the Indiana Academic Standards,” McCormick said.
Administrators from La Porte, New Prairie, Westville and LaCrosse did not immediately respond to requests for comment; and Marquette President James White was out of the country on Wednesday.
How La Porte County schools fared
Numbers are the percentage of students to pass ISTEP+ tests in each category.
Grade 10 results
Complete Spring 2018 ISTEP+ results by school and corporation can be viewedat doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports