The Indiana Department of Education released local corporation and school scores for ISTEP and though scores plummeted as expected, scores unlike previous years, probably will mean nothing in the end.
The Department of Education says passing rates for both the math and language portions of the standardized test dropped by more than 20-percentage points in 2015, though it took almost a full year for the exams mandated for grades 3 through 8 to be scored.
The drop in scores has long been expected since ISTEP was longer than previous years due to changes in the state’s academic standards, as well as controversy over the grading of the tests by CTB in the final year of its contract to develop the exam for Indiana.
Indiana students in grades three through eight take the ISTEP test annually in the spring. The state Department of Education then uses the scores to hold schools accountable for performance and adherence to the state academic standards.
Generally, scoring is finished and the results are released during the summer, before the next school year begins, so schools have a chance to adjust their instruction based on the feedback.
This year, however, scores were released almost six months later, halfway through the school year.
As anticipated, pass rates fell by double digits across the state, and schools in Dubois County and surrounding areas were not spared.
Scores within the Greater Jasper Consolidated School Corporation fell from a total pass rate for English/language arts and math of 81.7 percent in 2014 to 61.6 percent this past year. Northeast Dubois fell from 79.2 percent to 66.5 percent, North Spencer fell from 88.7 percent to 73.9 percent, Pike County fell from an even 70 percent to 46.9 percent, Southeast Dubois fell from 91.4 percent to 75.1 percent and Southwest Dubois fell from 81.6 percent to 62.2 percent.
Department of Education officials and local educators have repeatedly said that it is unfair to compare the 2014 and 2015 scores because the 2015 test was based on the new, more rigorous Indiana College and Career Readiness standards that were approved in July 2014, one month before the start of the school year. That left educators little time to adjust their teaching methods and lesson plans.
But that was only one of the problems faced during the Spring 2015 testing season. Glitches with the online tests, discrepancies in difficulty between versions and problems with scoring were just a few of the other issues.
Back in November, superintendents across Dubois County submitted an open letter to the community that explained the issues schools and students faced. They argued that neither this yearís scores nor the corporation accountability grades that depend on the scores would be accurate representations of the education that happens in their schools. Similar letters sprang up across the state.
Statewide, 53.5 percent of students passed both the English/language arts and math tests.