During April and May, it was pencils down for Indiana's third through eighth graders taking the ISTEP. How'd they do? We found out Wednesday when the state's ISTEP results were released.
"Today is a very good day for Indiana education," said Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
It was a good day, because the state's students achieved the highest percentage gains in the pass rate since the ISTEP was first given in the late 80's.
On average, 74% passed English/language arts, a 4% gain over last year.
76% passed math. It was 71% in 2009.
In science, 67% of the kids passed. That's a five point gain. And in social studies, the pass rate was 65%, up 6%.
What was the difference this year? Dr. Tony Bennett believes a spring time test combined with high expectations and concentrated efforts worked.
"What this goes to show is we should never be satisfied with incremental gains," said Dr. Bennett.
"One year doesn't make a trend, but one year does give us a platform to takeoff."
But taking off at a time when more teacher are grounded by layoffs.
"Even in times like this when it's so challenging, class sizes are going up, resources are limited, teachers are still going above and beyond to provide what's needed for their students," said Teresa Meredith with the Indiana State Teacher's Association.
In northwest Indiana, there were gains attributed to Saturday instruction. Something Bennett thinks should happen around the state.
"We should be for a longer school day, longer school week and longer school year," he said.
Not everyone agrees with that school of thought.
"For them to come home to two hours of homework is really stressful for a kid when they should be able to enjoy life and learn outside," said Avon parent Tonya Brown.
That's a debate for down the road. For now, these are results that make families and educators happy, and the DOE ready for more, especially in Indianapolis, where the achievement gap is wider.
"I can tell you teachers are going to do everything they can to continue that. But it is realistic to believe there are challenges ahead," warned Meredith.
The state's largest school district is celebrating improvement over last year. Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) said its students improved at every grade level.
Sidener Academy, an IPS magnet, remained the school with the top scores for the second consecutive year. Sidener is among three IPS schools where 100% of students passed either the math or English-language arts portions of the exam. IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White said he is pleased at learning the results, but wants the district to continue to improve.
How did your child's school do?
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS:
IPS Students Make Significant Gains on Spring ISTEP-Plus Exam Improvement at every grade level over a year ago
IPS students made vast improvement at every grade level on the English/language arts and math portions of the Spring 2010 ISTEP-Plus exam compared to test scores from last year.
And Sidener Academy boasted the highest test scores in all grades tested statewide on ISTEP-Plus for the second consecutive year. Sidener, a magnet school, had 174 students in Grades 3-6 take the test. The elementary is among three IPS schools to have achieved 100 percent of students passing either the math or English/language arts portions of the exam.
"We're pleased that we improved at every grade level over last year," said IPS Superintendent Eugene G. White. "We will build on this and with the hard work and commitment from our teachers in the classroom, we're going to continue to work on improving instruction."
The biggest gain is in seventh grade English/language arts scores, which jumped 9 percentage points. In 2009, 37 percent of students tested passed compared to 46 percent who passed the 2010 exam. A total of 1,013 seventh-graders were tested this spring.
A total of 15,286 IPS students in Grades 3-8 took the exams. High school results have not been released by the Indiana Department of Education.
While IPS magnet schools fared well, 10 non-magnet programs - Thomas D. Gregg School 15, Eleanor Skillen School 34, William McKinley School 39, Elder W. Diggs School 42, Raymond F. Brandes school 65, Floro Torrence School 83, Ernie Pyle School 90, Arlington Woods School 99, Emma Donnan Middle School and John Marshall Community High School, - also made good progress.
And new middle school programs at Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities and Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy also made gains.
Sixty-four percent of the 98 eight-graders at Shortridge tested passed the English/language arts exam, compared to 53 percent passing in 2009. Broad Ripple, which just finished its first year as a combined middle and high school, saw 73 percent of the 206 seventh-graders pass the English/language arts exam. Seventy percent of the 141 eighth-graders passed the same exam.
"Moving a large district like IPS in an upward trend is difficult. We test more students, some who have unique challenges. With large populations like ours, it's harder to show growth," said Cynthia Roach, who oversees testing, research and evaluation for the district.
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION:
Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett released the 2010 Indiana Statewide Testing for Education Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) results today, and students across the state made significant gains. Results show 81 percent of public schools increased the percentage of students passing both the English/language arts and Mathematics portions of the ISTEP+. The assessment resulted in statewide pass rates of 74 percent in English/language arts, 76 percent in Mathematics, 67 percent in Science and 65 percent in Social Studies.
"Achieving increases of 4 to 6 percent across the board for students in a majority of Hoosier schools is a tremendous step forward, and I extend sincere congratulations to all of our high-performing and improving schools for their hard work and tenacity," said Bennett. "I am excited to see these gains across the state and am very optimistic that students will continue on this path to excellence. Our goal is that 90 percent of the state's students are passing both the Math and English/language arts portions of the ISTEP+ by 2012, and I believe our teachers, parents, and communities will help Indiana's students rise to the occasion."
Given the Indiana Department of Education's (IDOE) emphasis on demonstrating and communicating growth data, the department took a close look at schools achieving large gains in the percent of students passing.
"Overall, too few schools are making significant gains in closing achievement gaps, and we must do more to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students," Bennett said. "Students and educators at Joseph L. Block Jr. High in East Chicago demonstrated tremendous growth and achievement with high-poverty and high-minority populations--populations that all too often fall victim to excuses of adults--and I applaud them for their remarkable efforts. These results reaffirm my belief that every student can learn, and we must not be satisfied with incremental gains."
At Joseph L. Block, a school where 91 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, the percentage of Black students passing increased by 19.37 percent on the English/language arts portion of the test, 15.35 percent on the Math portion, and 13.6 percent on both. The percentage of Hispanic students passing increased by 26.89 percent, 9.3 percent, and 14.87 percent, respectively, in those same categories. Administrators attribute their success to the creation and use of an ISTEP+ matrix that examined individual student scores to identify strengths and weaknesses. In addition, Block's educators focused intensely on literacy skills.
Other schools demonstrating large gains include the following:
Carrie Gosch Elementary School in East Chicago, with 97 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and 99 percent from minority populations, saw a 31.87 percent jump in the percentage of students passing. The school attributes this increase to instruction driven by a three-tiered reading model based on data received from mCLASS and DIBELS. An extended day and Saturday school also allowed educators to provide students with even more instructional time than the required 180 days.
Pettit Park School in Kokomo (77 percent free or reduced lunch and 29 percent minority population) increased students passing by 23.27 percent. Administrators at Pettit Park say they maintain a data and picture wall with a photo of every student in each classroom. During a weekly grade-level meeting to assess every student's individual progress, educators at Pettit Park discuss potential strategies for helping students improve.
The Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary (52 percent free or reduced lunch and nearly 100 percent minority population) saw a 31.43 percent jump in students passing both English/language arts and math portions. School leaders say the gains are due to teacher's efforts to analyze individual student needs. The school also administered the NWEA test three times during the year, but found historical ISTEP+ data to be the most important and useful.
In 2010, 35 schools hit the 90 percent benchmark, up from 21 schools in 2009. New additions to this group include Webster Elementary School in Plymouth. Webster increased the number of students passing from 74.79 percent in 2009 to 90.98 percent in 2010, and administrators attribute the increase to the hard work of staff, parental involvement, extended reading blocks, and interventions for all students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Ireland Elementary School in Jasper led the state on the English/language arts portion of the test, with 98% of students passing. School leaders say they have used Response to Instruction (RtI) to make sure they are filling gaps for struggling students.
One Indiana school, Otwell Elementary School in Pike County, achieved 100 percent of students passing the Mathematics portion of the test.
All ISTEP+ information, including performance data for each corporation and school, is available online at www.doe.in.gov/istep.
About the 2010 Spring ISTEP+
ISTEP+ is given each spring to approximately 500,000 students in grades 3 through 8. ISTEP+ offers a snapshot of student progress at a specific point in time, providing educators, students and parents with information they can use to identify specific strengths and areas of need at each grade level. Students first took the spring test in 2009, and the test remains the same in terms of level of difficulty and content covered.
The cut scores for the 2010 Spring ISTEP+ were developed by more than 100 teachers from across the state following the first administration of the test in the spring of 2009; cut scores are online at www.doe.in.gov/istep/2009.
The goal of ISTEP+ is to measure how well students perform and comprehend the skills and content outlined in Indiana's Academic Standards. Like the 2009 test, the 2010 version of ISTEP+ included open-ended and multiple-choice questions in English/language arts and Mathematics at each grade level, as well as Science for grades 4 and 6 and Social Studies for grades 5 and 7. The test was administered in two separate sessions; students took the open-ended portion March 1 through 10, 2010 and the multiple choice section April 26 through May 5, 2010.
Supporting Students & Parents
ISTEP+ Parent Network: Two years ago, the IDOE established the ISTEP+ Parent Network, an online resource that offers parents secure access to their students' ISTEP+ scores. Accessible on demand throughout the year at www.doe.in.gov/istepparentnetwork, families can use the ISTEP+ Parent Network to review students' latest assessment results quickly and easily and connect to useful educational resources. Parents should have received a letter containing secure ISTEP+ Parent Network login information from their student's school.
On Track Resource Guides: The state's On Track mini-magazine series is designed to help parents stay connected and support student learning throughout the year. Distributed annually to families across Indiana, On Track guides highlight what students are expected to know at each grade level, offer helpful learning tips and provide Web links to additional online resources. Visit www.doe.in.gov/publications to learn more.
Supporting Teachers & Schools
Indiana Growth Model: The Indiana Growth Model is a statistical model used to calculate student progress, or growth, on state assessments. The Growth Model allows for an unprecedented level of public disclosure and understanding of information about individual student, school, and district performance. The IDOE is committed to focusing educational reform and school improvement efforts around the Growth Model to raise student achievement for every student and close achievement gaps.
The Growth Model enables parents, teachers and administrators to understand how individual students are progressing from year to year. Based on where each individual student begins, IDOE expects all students to achieve at least one grade level of growth in an academic year. The Growth Model uses ISTEP+ scores to calculate these measurements in growth and to illustrate progress over time for students, schools and districts. For more information on the Indiana Growth Model, go to: https://learningconnection.doe.in.gov/ArticleViewer.aspx?art=8.