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Lanesville sophs tops on ISTEP

Most Indiana 10th graders showed improvement on the 10th-grade statewide achievement test, but results in Harrison County high schools were mixed. One school performed very well, another poorly but with considerable improvement, and two tied the state average.
The yearly Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress exams, known as ISTEP, take the form of the Graduation Qualifying Exam, or GQE, in the 10th grade. Failure to pass the test can keep a student from graduating from high school.
Though Lanesville Junior-Senior High and Corydon Central High scored two percent lower on the test this year, Lanesville still passed more students than any other school in the county with a combined score of 67, and Corydon tied the state average.
Lanesville ranked in the top 26 percent of Indiana’s 394 schools administering the GQE. The school recorded 75 percent in math, 70 in English, and 67 combined. CCHS outperformed only 44 percent of Indiana’s high schools.
Statewide, 60 percent of students passed both parts of the exam, an increase of two percent from last year. The math and English sections were each passed by 68 percent of students.
That average was also met by North Harrison High, which improved its score two points.
South Central Junior-Senior High ranked in the bottom 36 percent, but under the standard for improvement set by the federal “No Child Left Behind” Law and Indiana’s School Improvement Plan, South Central’s performance is a success. Both measures call for schools to show improvement in performance on standardized testing.
South Central passed seven percent more students than in 2001, making it the most improved school in the county. The school maintained a 70-percent pass rate in English but increased its math score from 54 to 66 percent.
The No Child Left Behind Law has big teeth. Should a school fail to show an average five-percent improvement for two years over baseline scores established during the 2001-2002 academic year, students may be allowed to transfer from that school.
No Child Left Behind requires that transfer students go to a school that is showing improvement, but, ironically, that school may not be performing better on ISTEP overall.
Though both the GQE and school curriculum are supposed to be modeled around state standards, students fail to pass the GQE far more often than they fail to pass English and math courses.
One reason for this, local educators said, is that the GQE is a “high stakes test” because students must either pass it to graduate or obtain a waiver. This causes test anxiety for some students which translates into poor performance.
Also, students’ abilities may improve over the course of the year.
“You test in the fall and you are tested one time,” said Tim Bridges, principal of Lanesville Junior-Senior High. “You are basing everything on one test. Kids have a whole year to bring themselves up. When you work with them everyday, then they are going to gain some ground.”
The test is constantly evolving and will undergo major changes in 2004. For example, the math section will become 30 percent algebra. Schools are already aware of the direction the test is heading and, in some cases, have already tried to tailor curriculum to the test’s future.
At Lanesville, 88 percent of sophomores have already passed Algebra I. As of next year, all students will be required by the Indiana State Dept. of Education to take algebra by the end of the ninth-grade year.
“We’ve been working with (CCHS and South Central) on incorporating the state standards a little bit more. In some ways, that can almost hurt us on the 10th-grade test,” said Kathy Hopper, administrative assistant for South Harrison Community School Corp. Hopper said studies at South Harrison may be geared more toward the 2004 test than the current test.
Hopper said the ISTEP results generate a tremendous amount of data. The state uses that to determine education standards, and the schools use it to determine how to better prepare students for the test.