News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 30, 2013

Local leaders still say delays hurt kids’ performance

TERRE HAUTE — Despite an independent study finding that interrupted ISTEP tests didn’t have a “measurable” negative impact on student scores, some Wabash Valley educators remain unconvinced.

Vigo County School Superintendent Danny Tanoos, speaking Monday, said he had not yet reviewed the findings by the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, but he remains concerned the interruptions could have affected scores.

“I don’t think [those conducting the review] spent enough time in a school setting like we have,” Tanoos said. “My thought is [that the interruptions and delays were] very disruptive to students taking the test.”

While some better-performing students might have bounced back from the delays, Tanoos worries about the others. “I’d like to see how our students who are middle-level learners and those who are struggling, how it affected them,” he said.

More than 940 Vigo County students had their ISTEP tests interrupted last spring. That’s 14 percent of the total who took the test, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

In Clay County, Superintendent Kim Tucker is also unconvinced, at least at this point.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s still a matter for our own personal review,” Tucker said Monday, noting the school corporation still has not seen its ISTEP results.

“We felt like those interruptions were particularly distressing for students and, in kind, teachers whose responsibility is to prep students not only intellectually and academically but also mentally and emotionally” for the high-stakes test, she said.

“We certainly hope that our scores have not been impacted by those delays, but we’re pretty much in the we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it mode,” Tucker said.

According to state data, 217 Clay County students — 11 percent — were affected by the delays.

The most recent ISTEP scores have not yet been made available to local school corporations and individual students. Normally, the results are available in May.

“My only frustration is that it has prolonged the assessment data to get back to us in order to for us to complete teacher evaluations and to assess the students and see how they did,” said Brian Byrum, principal of North Vermillion Elementary School in Cayuga.

The elementary school did not suffer the high level of technical problems some other schools did, Byrum said.

Overall, however, North Vermillion was the most-affected school district in the area, with 35 percent of students taking the math section of the ISTEP affected by delays, according to IDOE data.

School officials overseeing testing at the middle and high school levels in North Vermillion could not be reached Monday afternoon.

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