ISTEP+ scores improve slightly over last year 

click to enlarge Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett announced Tuesday that Indiana’s ISTEP+ scores had inched up over last year. - SUZANNAH COUCH
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett announced Tuesday that Indiana’s ISTEP+ scores had inched up over last year.
  • Suzannah Couch

By Suzannah Couch Indiana students fared slightly better this year on Indiana's ISTEP+ standardized tests while overall scores have improved significantly in the past three years, the Department of Education reported Tuesday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett announced Tuesday that Indiana's ISTEP+ scores had inched up over last year.

About 71 percent of students passed both the English language arts and math sections of the test this spring, the state said. That's a 1 percentage point gain over the previous school year and an 8 percentage point increase since the 2008-2009 school year.

"We are continuing to see historic gains among our Indiana students," Bennett said. "If you pass a teacher, thank them for driving student performance in Indiana."

Statewide, 81 percent of students passed the math portion of the test, which is a 2 percentage point jump from the previous school and an 8 percentage point jump from the 2008-2009 school year.

It's the first time more than 80 percent of students have passed one or more portions of the test, state officials said.

Other pass rates for Hoosier students include 79 percent on the English language arts portion of the test, 71 percent on the science section of the exam and 69 percent on the social studies segment of the assessment.

Since Bennett was elected four years ago, he has pushed and won changes in Indiana's education system - including private school vouchers, an expansion of charters, and a new letter grade system for schools - that he had promised would drive student achievement.

But Teresa Meredith, vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said she is not sure those reforms, are responsible for the increase in ISTEP scores.

"It's the teachers and administrators targeting instruction and really going above and beyond in spite of larger class sizes and less resources," Meredith said. "Pretty impressive."

Although the state's overall improvement his year was not particularly significant, some districts excelled.

After spending four years with the state's lowest category ranking - an F - the Dickinson Fine Arts Academy in South Bend improved its scores more than any other middle school in the state. State officials said 26 percent more of the school's students passed both the language arts and math portions of the standardized test.

After six years in the F category, schools face state intervention.

Dickinson principal Thomas Sims said in a statement the school was not going to allow that to happen.

"With state intervention a near certainty, our students, families and staff vowed that we would no longer be anyone's underdog," Sims said in a statement. "Today, Dickinson's children have made good on that promise. Our focus was simple and clear, not us. Not today and not ever again."

The improvement in the school's ISTEP scores will lead to a higher grade category, state officials said. That will prevent the state from intervening or taking over the school.

"I'm so proud of Dickinson's inspirational story and all of the schools that have partnered with their communities to drive effective school improvement plans these last few years," Bennett said in a statement. "The students in these schools have a brighter future today because of these efforts."

The Columbus Signature Academy Fodrea Campus in Columbus had the highest percentage of students who passed the English language arts and math portions of the test.

Francis W. Parker Elementary and Middle School in Indianapolis had a 16 percent jump in students passing the English language arts portion of the exam.

Other schools honored at a gathering on Tuesday morning for their ISTEP+ performance included Ferdinand Elementary in Southeast Dubois County School Corporation where 99 percent of the students passed both sections.

Principal Lee Begle said the school receives strong support from parents when it comes to ISTEP+ testing.

"We have an expectation every year to do really well," Begle said. "We're very proud of this and expect to keep it going."

Students at the John S. Irwin Math Science Magnet Elementary in Fort Wayne Community Schools had a 96 percent pass rate on the English language arts portion of the test, and 91 percent on the math portion.

Renaissance Academy Charter School increased their math passing rate by 23 percentage points.

Suzannah Couch is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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