INDIANAPOLIS - The much-delayed ISTEP+ scores that were released publicly today show continued improvement by students statewide on the standardized tests that measure proficiency the core subjects of math and English/language arts. Local numbers were mostly stagnant, with Clarksville and West Clark school corporations showing overall gains in students passing both portions of the test.
The results, released by the Indiana Department of Education, show 79.5 percent of students passed the English portion of the test and 82.7 percent passed the math portion. Statewide, 73.5 percent of students passed both sections of the test.
The numbers show a small improvement over last year, when 79.4 percent of students passed English and 81.2 percent passed math. In 2012, about 73 percent passed both portions of the ISTEP test, up from about 71 percent in 2011.
The test is given in the late spring to students in grades three through eight and also to high school sophomores.
Release of the standardized test results was delayed by more than three months due to a series of events related to computer glitches that disrupted the online test-taking in late April and early May. About 80,000 of the 482,000 students who took the test were kicked offline at some point during the test, triggering protests from schools that feared the computer disruptions would result in poorer test scores. An independent review ordered by the Department of Education later showed "no negative impact" overall on student test scores, though about 1,400 test results may be thrown out.
"Rising test scores are something to celebrate, but it's more important to celebrate the people behind the test scores — teachers and other school employees, parents and the students themselves — especially in light of the difficulties they had to overcome this year," said state Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, a member of the House Education Committee.
Clere's district is part of the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., which saw its overall scores fall slightly from 2012, although there were several grade-level improvements.
"Test scores provide a useful and important snapshot, but they don't tell the whole story," Clere said. "I wouldn't jump to any conclusions based only on test scores."
Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz released the scores to the public today, with a statement acknowledging the problems that caused their delay.
"First, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of Indiana students, parents, educators, administrators and the employees of the Department of Education for their efforts during the administration of this test," Ritz said. "Despite considerable difficulties, our students improved their overall performance yet again, and deserve our congratulations."
Ritz has been a tough critic of ISTEP, in part because of the high stakes associated with the test results. The scores earned by students are used to determine a wide range of other factors, including teacher pay, school funding, and the A-F school rating system.
The data show a wide range of results for individual schools; while some schools saw more than 90 percent of their students pass ISTEP, there were some schools that saw only about one-third of their students pass the test.
The numbers are still considered preliminary and won't be finalized until after students and parents have the opportunity to request a re-evaluation of how the "applied skills" portion of the test was scored, according to DOE officials. Also, the results of the new science portion of the test aren't expected to be released until late October.
The test results have come under close scrutiny by DOE officials since the computer problems threw a wrench into the test taking last spring. Ritz opted to delay release of the test scores until after they were reviewed by Richard Hill, director of the New Hampshire-based National Center for the Improvement of Education Assessment. Hill looked at more than 79,000 tests that had been interrupted, and has recommended that nearly 1,400 scores be thrown out. But Hill also concluded that overall, the widespread testing interruptions appeared to have minimal impact on most student test scores.
Meanwhile, the DOE has requested $613,600 in damages from the online testing company, CTB/McGraw-Hill. The company has apologized for the computer problems during the ISTEP testing window and blamed the problems on computer servers that were overloaded by too many test-takers.
CLARKSVILLE ISTEP+ test results, percentage of students passing:
• 2013: language arts 73.1%; math 77.2%; students passing both 65%
• 2012: language arts 73.5%; math 75.2%; students passing both 63.7%
• 2011: language arts 69.9%; math 77%; students passing both 62.8%
GREATER CLARK ISTEP+ test results, percentage of students passing:
• 2013: language arts 76.9%; math 79.6%; students passing both 69.2%
• 2012: language arts 77.6%; math 79.2%; students passing both 69.6%
• 2011: language arts 77.4%; math 77.9%; students passing both 68.8%
NEW ALBANY-FLOYD COUNTY ISTEP+ test results, percentage of students passing:
• 2013: language arts 81.9%; math 88.3%; students passing both 78.1%
• 2012: language arts 82.4%; math 88.9%; students passing both 78.9%
• 2011: language arts 81.3%; math 86.7%; students passing both 76.8%
WEST CLARK ISTEP+ test results, percentage of students passing:
• 2013: language arts 75.9%; math 83.2%; students passing both 71.5%
• 2012: language arts 78.3%; math 80.2%; students passing both 71.2%
• 2011: language arts 77.2%; math 80.7%; students passing both 69.5%