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County ISTEP scores ‘across the board’

With some celebrating ‘ and some cringing ‘ school administrators across the state learned the scores from Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) last week.
Overall in the state, where approximately 1,600 schools had nearly a half-million students who took the test in grades 3 to 8, 71 percent of students passed both the English Language Arts and Math portions of the test during the 2011-12 school year, a 1-percent gain on the previous school year and an 8-percent gain since the 2008-09 school year.
Upon taking office nearly four years ago, Dr. Tony Bennett, superintendent of public instruction, set a state-wide goal of a 90-percent pass rate on both portions of the exam. This year, 85 schools reached that threshold in both subjects, up from 75 schools in 2010-11. Ferdinand Elementary School in Southeast Dubois County School Corp. recorded the highest results in the state, with 99 percent of students passing the ELA and Math sections of ISTEP+. This is the second year in a row Ferdinand has been at the top of the list.
Locally, there were mixed results.
In the area of percentage points change in passing rates for 2011 and 2012, Heth-Washington Elementary School in the South Harrison Community School Corp. posted a 9.75-percent increase, followed by corporation-mates Corydon Elementary (9.29), South Central Elementary (8.89) and New Middletown Elementary (4.83). Lanesville Junior-Senior High School increased by 4.11 percent, with North Harrison Middle School next on the list at 2.63 percent.
Superintendents in all three school corporations were quick to offer praise for those numbers, but they also noted there is improvement to be made. As a corporation, South Harrison’s overall numbers actually fell by 0.12 percent, North Harrison by 0.19 percent and Lanesville by 2.85 percent.
South Central Junior-Senior High School’s total passing figures fell by 7.22 percent, followed by Lanesville Elementary (6.57), Corydon Central Junior High (5.34), Morgan Elementary (5.02) and Corydon Intermediate (4.65).
In those, however, each school except for South Central equaled or easily bettered the statewide average. In fact, Morgan still posted a 91.51-percent passage rate in math and 86.49 percent in ELA.
New Middletown paced county schools in overall pass score with 84 percent. Morgan was next at 83 percent, with CES and North Harrison Elementary scoring 78.6-percent passage rate, and North Harrison Middle School marking a 78.21 pass rate.
At the bottom of the list, South Central Junior High had just a 52.78-percent passage rate overall. Corydon Central Junior High (61.23), Lanesville Elementary (72.0) and South Central Elementary (73.0) were next lowest, despite SCE posting one of the best growth rates in the county.
In English, CES (88.55 percent), NMES (86.67), MES (86.59), NHES (85.04), NHMS (83.55) and SCE (82.69) posted the highest percentage of passing scores in the county. Lowest were SCJH (61.1), CCJH (71.39), Heth-Washington Elementary (78.64), CIS (80.64) and LES (80.68). In the middle of the pack was Lanesville Junior High at 82.08 pass percentage.
In math, NMES charted a pass percentage of 93.33 percent. Next on the list were MES (91.2), NHES (88.46), NHMS (87.42), CIS (86.5), CES (83.2), and LES at 82.86. Lowest in math were SCJH (63.89), CCJH (73.4), HWES (77.7), LJH (81.13) and SCE (82.21).
‘We’re all over the board,’ South Harrison Superintendent Dr. Neyland Clark said. ‘We’re having system-wide dialogues with our administrators. It seems as though our issue comes at the transition points in our school systems, from third grade to fourth and from the elementary school to the intermediate school, and from sixth to seventh grade from CIS to the junior high.
‘You look at New Middletown Elementary with 84 percent passing and 86.6 percent passing English and more than 93 percent passing math, and that’s a remarkable story. Then, you look Corydon junior high, and we have a principal who is understandably furious. We’ve got some successes, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do in various areas.’
Clark said last week’s acceptance of a resignation by South Central athletic director Karen Fleck was so she could be moved into a full-time assistant principal position at the school, with grades 6 to 8 being her focus.
‘We want to address our issues to the best of our ability, and we want our teachers to do everything they can to prepare our students,’ Clark said.
Marsha Himmelhaver, principal at LES, said her staff isn’t going to look back at why scores weren’t as good as hoped, unless it’s productive in moving forward.
‘We had two years in a row of fifth-graders in ELA and math passing in the 90-percentage area. Our goal, as presented by (Superintendent Steve Morris) is to have all students at 90 percent and working towards 100 percent,’ Himmelhaver said. ‘We’ll reflect on our numbers and, specifically, ask what we can do to improve, look into specific grade levels and into individual students and find what we have to do and what needs to be changed.
‘The scores that fell down, there’s a reason for it and we’ve got to put our finger on it,’ she said. ‘At Lanesville, one student can put us in the limelight and one student can bring us down. One student makes a huge impact on our percentage.’
Himmelhaver said third- and fourth-grade scores aren’t where she wants them to be but noted that the staff she has on-hand works hard for the students.
‘Where do we need to work smarter and what do we need to do to make sure our students are successful? That’s the questions we’ll ask. We are solution focused,’ she said.
Morris, who is also principal of Lanesville Junior-Senior High, said growth is always good, especially with school and teacher accountability mandates looming on the horizon.
‘Our expectation is to grow from previous year’s performance. The state wants to see growth. Scores will fluctuate up and down in different years, and we hope to get a level of consistency to where our students are performing at a high rate every year,’ Morris said. ‘We’d like to reach the 90-percent mark consistently. We just need to continue working to the point where we’re hitting that mark consistency on all grade levels.’
Morris noted that grades 5 to 7 scored very well across the board, with grades 3 through 8 scoring in the low 80s percentage passing in both tests.
‘We’re still looking for more,’ Morris said. ‘We’d like to be up there in the high 80s. We’re focusing in our math for next year. We did some math training earlier this summer with all of our math teachers, and we hope that once we get a real solid math program implemented in next couple of years that the scores will go up as a result.’
At North Harrison, Superintendent D. John Thomas said grade school and middle school scores were very good. And, despite Morgan Elementary dropping about 5 percentage points in overall pass rate, he’s still proud of what the schools have accomplished because its pass rate is still high when compared to other schools not just in Harrison County, but in Southern Indiana.
‘When I compare scores, I’m not looking to down other schools. I’m looking to get an accurate assessment of where we need to improve. You may have some classes that perform better, some classes have special students, so you aren’t always going to have the same results,’ Thomas said. ‘If you are doing what should be done ‘ following standards and teaching the benchmarks ‘ then you are going to be successful.’
For a complete listing of each school’s figures, by grade, go to the Indiana Dept. of Education website,