ISTEP+ Results for DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, and Steuben Counties

July 11th, 2012

News Coverage:

Five districts’ test scores beat state average

Staff Reports

Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 1:00am

Only five of the 13 public school districts in northeast Indiana exceeded the state average for students passing ISTEP+ testing, according to results released Tuesday.

Eight of the local districts showed improvement over last year’s results, however.

The Indiana Department of Education revealed scores for grades 3-8 from testing this spring.

Overall, 71 percent of Indiana students passed both the math and English-language arts portions of the achievement tests — a gain of 1 percentage point from last year and 8 percentage points since 2009.

Local school districts scoring better than the state average are led by Westview with 78.6 percent of students passing both parts of the test. Also beating the average are DeKalb Central, 73.6 percent; Hamilton, 72.9 percent; Fremont, 72.1 percent; and Smith-Green (Churubusco) at 75.4 percent.

School districts with passing rates below the state average are DeKalb Eastern at 70.2 percent; MSD of Steuben County, 70 percent; East Noble, 68.9 percent; Garrett-Keyser-Butler, 68.8 percent; Prairie Heights, 67.8 percent; West Noble, 65.7 percent; Lakeland, 63.9 percent; and Central Noble, 63.2 percent.

Two districts topped state averages on only one part of the test. DeKalb Eastern students passed the math portion at an 83.9 percent rate, exceeding ing the state average of 81 percent. MSD Steuben students passed the English segment at a 79.5 percent rate, beating the state average of 79 percent.

Districts that showed improvement from 2011 scores are DeKalb Central, DeKalb Eastern, East Noble, Garrett-Keyser-Butler, Prairie Heights, Smith-Green, West Noble and Westview.

Three private schools in northeast Indiana scored well on ISTEP+. St. Joseph Elementary School in Garrett saw 91.3 percent of its students pass both the English and math portions of the test. Lakewood Park Christian School of Auburn had an 83.7 pass rate, and Saint Mary Elementary School in Avilla recorded an 83.6 percent pass rate. At St. John Lutheran School in Kendallville, 65.3 percent of students passed both portions of the test. The Howe School had a passing rate of 63.6 percent, with only nine students tested.

Along with achieving the second-best passing rate in the area, the DeKalb Central school district improved on its 72.3 percent rate from last year.

“We’re very proud of our students and staff members and their hard work and effort each and every day,” said Lynn Simmers, assistant superintendent for DeKalb Central. “I think these results demonstrate our commitment to continuous improvement.”

Simmers added, “Teachers have done a tremendous job of keeping the individual growth of each student a priority.”

She said DeKalb Central looks at the ISTEP+ results as just one measure of progress. The district now will begin analyzing the results to look for both strengths and opportunities for improvement.

“We’re really pleased with the staff and how they’ve worked to achieve that goal (of ISTEP+ scores),” said Smith-Green interim superintendent Ralph Bailey.

Tuesday was Bailey’s fourth day as interim superintendent in that system, though he’s served there as an interim twice before.

Someone is analyzing the numbers in more detail for the school system, because there’s always room for improvement in some areas, Bailey said.

Central Noble Superintendent Chris Daughtry was out of the office Tuesday. He said he hadn’t seen the ISTEP+ results and couldn’t comment on them specifically, but the school district already has been working to improve its performance.

Central Noble has just started a big push toward Direct Instruction, which works to raise teacher and student engagement, Daughtry said, adding, “I think we’ll start to see the fruits of that.”

“You can always have years that are blips,” Daughtry said. This year’s scores appear to be a “blip,” he said. “Last year we had one of our strongest years.”

This was the first year for all students to take the ISTEP+ online, which may have added to that “blip,” Daughtry said.

But the district wants to keep this from becoming a trend, he said. “We’re not going to continue to be low.”

The main priority isn’t getting ready for one week of testing, Daughtry said. “It’s for the kids to learn. … It’s for them to get the skills to go out and get a job when they grow up.”

“While we fell slightly below the state average, we are pleased that our overall pass rate in (English-language arts) and math improved from last year,” said Becca Lamon, East Noble School Corp. curriculum director. “It is important to not only look at a district’s pass rate but to identify growth or lack of growth in the totals when looking at the ISTEP+ data.”

East Noble’s showed a higher rate of improvement than 160 school districts in the state, according to Lamon.

“Until we reach above the 90 percent passing that Dr. Bennett has set as a state goal, we will not be satisfied with our results,” said Ann Linson, superintendent of East Noble schools. “We are certainly pleased that EN students did in fact show growth in our overall passing rate. We have much more work ahead of us to reach the state goal.”

“We have growth from last year, but still not to the level we want to see,” said Dennis Stockdale, superintendent of Garrett-Keyser-Butler schools. “We have identified an area of weakness that is holding us back. We have made significant changes next year to help improve that particular area of concern.”

Stockdale explained, “We have a sharp decline in special education scores over the last two years. We have added 2 1/2 special education teachers next year to provide customized learning opportunities to help improve their scores.”

Cyndi Nusbaum, coordinator of instruction for MSD Steuben County, said she is pleased with “excellent gains in English-language arts.” She said that could be a reflection of new programs begun specifically to address ISTEP scores.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working on the 90-minute reading block and literacy at the elementary level,” Nusbaum said.

Now, she said, district ISTEP scores seem to point at a need to focus more on mathematics. Nusbaum said administrators will “go into individual grade-level data and start to look possibly at any standards that we need to focus on.”

She said one possibility will be adding more technology to math instruction. There is an online component with a new math education series adopted last year. Nusbaum said she hopes to provide professional development on the technological side of the material.

As the district continues to deal with rising ISTEP expectations, Nusbaum said she is working with a consortium of teachers and administrators to put practices in place to continue to elevate student success. The efforts do seem to be showing in elementary English and in improved middle school scores.

“We’re very pleased with the Angola Middle School scores,” Nusbaum said.