Less than half of Indiana students passed ISTEP

INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) Indiana education officials released overall results from the ISTEP standardized exams given last spring to nearly 500,000 students.

Statewide, 46 percent of Indiana students in grades 3-8 passed both the math and English sections of the test, according to results released by the state Wednesday. At the high school level, just 31.4 percent of 10th graders passed both sections.

At Fort Wayne Community Schools, 39 percent of 3rd through 8th grade students passed both the math and English sections of the test, while 23.6 percent of 10th graders did. More than 50 percent of elementary and middle school students at East Allen County Schools passed both sections, and 29 percent of 10th graders achieved that. Nearly 67 percent of 3rd through 8th grade and 45 percent of high school students at Northwest Allen County Schools passed both sections, while almost 65 percent of Southwest Allen County Schools elementary and middle school students and 52 percent of high school students passed both.

Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel says he hasn’t looked at them and doesn’t care to.

“ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed,” he said. It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them.”‘

We shared some of NACS’ results with him. With only 45 percent of his high school students passed both sections of the test, he says that doesn’t line up with the nearly 95 percent of his students passing the national college-readiness ACCUPLACER test.

“There’s a disconnect between the test scores which makes us believe there’s a flaw in the testing system Indiana’s using for the ISTEP,” he said.

Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs agrees, calling the ISTEP a waste of time and tax dollars.

“While Southwest Allen County Schools is legally obligated to take the ISTEP+ tests, SACS does not place much value in their results,” he said. “ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents.”

Fifty-eight percent of DeKalb Central Schools 3rd through 8th grade students and 28 percent of 10th grade students passed both the math and English sections of the ISTEP test, while nearly 41 percent of 3rd through 8th graders and 52 percent of sophomores at North Adams Community Schools passed both. At East Noble Schools, 44 percent of primary students and 42 percent of high school students achieved passing scores in both sections.

More than 52 percent of 3rd through 8th grade students passed both math and English sections at MSD of Steuben County, where 35 percent of 10th grade students did so. At Smith-Green Community Schools, nearly 42 percent of elementary and middle school students passed both sections and 41 percent of 10th grade students.

FIND | See how your school performed

The passing rates on the ISTEP exams are on the agenda for discussion during Wednesday’s meeting of the State Board of Education.

The schools statewide are down again from 2016, when 51.6 percent of students in grades 3-8 passed both the English and math sections. Those scores were down nearly 2 percentage points from the spring 2015 exams.

State board of education representative Adam Baker said this years test results are important and valid, but they hope to collaborate with teachers to improve the test in the future.

“This year you cannot throw these tests out,” he said. “It is the test that we have and it is the test that matters when we talk about if our students prepared. Are we providing the best measures for our students and if not, what does that measure look like and how do we work better together? I think as long as those conversations are going and as long as scores like these sort of invoke those conversations and invite those conversations to the table, I think that’s how we’re going to be successful in the future.”

Indiana students are to be taking the ISTEP exam for the final time next spring as the state is switching to a new test named ILEARN for the 2019 exams. Details on the new test are still being worked out. Some critics worry it won’t be much different than ISTEP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.