News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 19, 2013

ISTEP: Vigo scores best of urban areas

VCSC: interruptions factor into test results

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County School Corp. students improved in eight of 14 areas that were tested on the 2013 ISTEP+ exam, although overall scores were slightly below the state average.

Districtwide, 78.2 percent of VCSC students passed in English/language arts, compared with 79.5 percent statewide. In math, 81.2 percent of students passed, compared with 82.7 percent statewide.

The state Department of Education released statewide results Wednesday for  grades 3 through 8 in English/language arts, math and social studies, after months of reviews into online glitches during last spring’s tests.

“Given all of the controversy this year, with several days of online testing interruptions, we were pleased to see several tested areas that are showing improvement from last year,” said Karen Goeller, deputy superintendent.

The district had 6,654 test-takers, and 2,251 of them — or 34 percent — experienced testing interruptions during the multiple choice ISTEP.

IDOE invalidated test results for 1,388 students statewide, including eight in Vigo County. The eight were in seven different schools.

For VCSC, students in grades 3 to 5 improved in four out of seven areas, and in grades 6 to 8, students again improved in four of seven areas.

Grade 5 students exceeded the state average in all three tested areas (English/ language arts, math and social studies) and had a significant pass-plus performance of 39 percent in math. IDOE sets a higher cut score to achieve “pass plus.”

Vigo County’s districtwide scores surpass those of the nine other largest urban districts in Indiana (by enrollment) that are part of the Indiana Urban Schools Association. That includes districts in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Hammond, Elkhart and Evansville.

“VCSC students had an exceptional performance when compared to their peers,” Goeller said.

In all elementary grades tested, in both English/language arts and math, VCSC students had the highest performance among the top 10 urban schools. In the middle grades tested, VCSC students were in the top three spots at every grade level in English/language arts and math among the same group of school districts.

Vigo County also saw improvements in grades 7 and 8, which was a priority for schools last year, Goeller said.

Students in grade 7 improved in all three tested areas, with an 8-percentage point improvement in math (from 72.2 percent last year to 80.2 percent this year).

In Grade 8, English/language arts scores improved by 4.4 percentage points, from 69.9 percent last year to 74.3 percent this year.

Middle schools have created additional time within the school day for students who need remediation in English/language arts and math instruction, Goeller said. “We feel that is helping.”

Grade 6 presented the most challenges, with a decline of nearly 7 percentage points in English/language arts and 2 percentage points in math. In sixth grade, E/LA scores went from 81.3 percent last year to 74.4 percent this year, while in math, scores went from 83 percent last year to 81.1 percent this year.

“We will focus on that in the upcoming year,” Goeller said, “to really try to look at our standards and see which areas are the weakest and what we need to do to improve.”

The district’s overall scores were up slightly this year in math, from 80.2 percent passing last year to 81.2 percent this year. The district was down slightly in English/language arts, with 79.6 percent passing last year and 78.2 percent this year.

District officials believe the test interruptions last spring may have had an impact on student test performance.

According to John Newport, VCSC curriculum coordinator of assessment, the district conducted its own internal examination of ISTEP data to track progress of students during the interrupted testing times that occurred last spring.

“Unlike in the past, we had schools with larger discrepancies this year between how students performed in English/language arts and math,” he said. Some students may not have done as well in tested areas that were interrupted.

When schools receive their grades later this year as part of the A-to-F grading system, “we will file appeals for schools when the category placements come out, where needed,” Newport said.

Based on a preliminary analysis, Goeller said , the district “will very likely appeal a few schools, at least.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.