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ISTEP results back, but it’s too early to draw conclusions, administrators say

The Indiana Dept. of Education has released Indiana schools’ ISTEP results, and it appears that many schools are recovering from a dip that was experienced when the test was converted from ‘fact-based’ to ‘application-based.’
‘Overall, scores are moving up, and for the most part they are above the threshold or benchmarks set by the state,’ said Supt. Neyland Clark of South Harrison Community School Corp.
The scores are used by several data-driven school improvement initiatives, including No Child Left Behind, PL 221 and P16.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the federal package which provides accountability and requires schools to show improvement over time.
PL 221 is Indiana’s way of complying with NCLB. It requires a school improvement plan which is used to implement state standards and improve student learning, said Linda Ray, director of enrichment at South Harrison Community School Corp.
P16 is a roundtable approach to improving student learning for NCLB, Ray said. The roundtable is made up of entities interested in improving education, and they are currently encouraging legislation to give teeth to PL221.
The schools will analyze the data in a variety of ways, but administrators aren’t drawing many conclusions just yet, and their consensus opinion is that observers should be cautious when making comparisons.
When parents have questions about data, ‘I want them to call us, come in and talk to us, and kind of get our perspective on it because all kids are going to be different,’ said Marsha Himmelhaver, principal of Lanesville Elementary School.
As for comparing one school to another, ‘I think it’s completely dangerous because all children can learn, but children from your higher socio-economic groups with two educated parents … those children are generally going to score higher. Certainly to start with,’ said Monty Schneider, superintendent of North Harrison Community School Corp.
‘That doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have a family from lower economic levels that are going to have a valedictorian. Tracking kids all the way through … I think that is a valid, fair comparison,’ Schneider said.
Regardless of how the data is analyzed, administrators seem to agree that the greatest benefit is to the individual student.
‘All you can do at this point is catch the kids at where they are deficient and bring them up,’ said Tim Bridges, principal at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School.
‘You want to follow these kids all the way up from sixth to eighth to 10th, and if the same kids are struggling, that’s what you look at,’ he said.