ISTEP results donít paint full picture

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ISTEP+ results were released by the Indiana Department of Education this week, and at first glance some of the numbers may seem disappointing. But, it is important right now to remember these numbers are not necessarily indicative of a schoolís ability to teach students.

ISTEP testing has long been criticized, but the last few years have come with a whole new set of problems, starting with a drastic change for grades 3-8 in standards during the 2014-15 school year. The state made the shift to college and career readiness standards, which administrators previously told us are much more rigorous.

Just before the March 2015 tests were given, the state was still making changes to the test, thus leaving schools and therefore teachers, little time to familiarize themselves and students with the test content.

More than nine months after the 2015 test was given, schools finally received the results. In January 2016, teachers and administrators finally saw the numbers depicting where students needed the most help.

Again, schools were up against the wall preparing for the next round of tests in March 2016. The schools had little time to prepare for the next round of tests and implement ways to address the issues seen in the numbers.

Adults can often adapt quickly, but students need time to acclimate and understand. ISTEP is already such a high-stress exam.

This year, a new set of standards focusing on college and career readiness, were implemented in grade 10. The results show a steep drop in numbers, which are not comparable to the previous assessment results.

While the numbers may look discouraging, we need to commend our Greene County schools for pushing through and overcoming the obstacles thrown at them. Administrators and teachers are constantly putting new plans into action to make sure their students are successful.

With the final days of the ISTEP+ test on the horizon, now itís time for the state to step up without making rash decisions. The 2017 exams will be the last of the ISTEP, but some form of accountability needs to be in place.

Accountability is important to ensure the schools all over the state are offering the best education. Itís no secret standards are essential in order to assure no students or communities are falling through the cracks. Administrators who are held directly responsible for the results agree that accountability is essential.

Our educators are holding up their ends of the bargain. Now, it is time for the state to step up, give a recommendation on the future of accountability and give staff and students time to acclimate.

The Associated Press reported this week the committee in charge of recommending a replacement did not have a specific plan devised. While taking its time and weighing the options is important, it is also important not to put schools in a time-frame bind once again.

The AP also reported a proposal is expected to be drafted at the Nov. 29 meeting of the replacement panel but the ďrecommendations are going to be very broad.Ē

There may not be a completely right answer, but we think recent issues with poor results shows there is a wrong answer.