Department of Education releases statewide results of 2016 ISTEP+ test, scores down significantly

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Indiana Department of Education released ISTEP+ scores Thursday morning as the state gets ready to replace the statewide test.

Statewide in 2016, 66.1 percent of students in grades three through eight passed the English/Language Arts section, 58.9 percent passed the Mathematics section and 51.6 percent passed both sections. In addition, 64.9 percent of fourth and fifth graders passed the Science section; 64.2 percent of fifth and seventh graders passed the Social Studies component.

In grade ten, 59 percent of students passed English/Language Arts, 34.6 percent passed Mathematics and 32.2 percent passed both sections. The state said 58.8 percent of tenth graders passed the Science section.

The 2016 scores are the second year of the new statewide testing for grades three through eight, which is based on the state's more rigorous college and career-ready standards. The baseline for the test was established in 2015.  As for grade ten, this is the first year for the new assessment, meaning those results can't be compared to previous years, according to the department. The test was also based on more rigorous college and career-ready standards.

These results come as a new test could replace the ISTEP+ starting in 2018.

"We are at a critical time," Wayne Township Superintendent Jeff Butts said.

Butts and hundreds of other Superintendents signed letters that they sent to the state this week, saying the test is flawed and the very low scores reflect issues with the assessment itself. They asked that the state hold them harmless for a second year, essentially throwing out the scores and not counting them in annual A to F grades. Those grades have not yet been released.

"I don’t think we have the confidence that those grades are accurately reflecting the accomplishments and achievements that we’re obtaining in our public schools today," Butts said.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee agreed, saying his focus is on helping teachers relay to parents that they should not worry about the grades.

"Educators are frustrated. The data we received today, we don’t believe is an accurate measure of the progress in our schools," Ferebee said.

At a State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Superintendent Glenda Ritz said that she did not think the state could hold schools harmless, because it had not been granted that choice by the federal government. It does have that option next year, she said, since a new test could be administered.

In the meantime, Butts said the state is changing some things to help alleviate fears over A to F scores, and seeking out other options.

He and other Superintendents are also concerned about the future of assessments, as a state panel tries to make recommendations for a new test by December 1. He said they do not believe the panel has found the solution, and more work needs to be done.

"What I would encourage people to do is get engaged with their students’ teachers, get engaged with their local school. Our teachers today can tell you exactly where our students are," Butts said.

Here's a look at the 2016 scores:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz issued the following statement about the results:

“Transitions are never easy, but I want to applaud the students, educators and families across the state who have worked tirelessly to shift to more rigorous college and career ready standards over the past two years.  Today’s results reflect Indiana’s focus on student progress towards more rigorous benchmarks for college and career readiness.  However, it is important to remember that our students, schools and teachers are more than just a test score.

“I have spent the past four years working to get rid of inefficient and costly tests like ISTEP+.  Indiana has finally taken the first steps to making that positive change for students but we need to go further.  It is not enough to simply rebrand our current pass-fail, expensive and inefficient assessment system.  Indiana must instead take advantage of federal flexibility to move towards a streamlined, individualized, student-centered assessment that provides students, families and educators with quick and meaningful feedback about how a student is performing and how they have grown during a school year.  Students, educators and families deserve nothing less.”

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