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State ISTEP scores inch higher despite testing problems

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Hoosier students scored slightly higher on Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus exams taken in the spring, despite computer problems that interrupted some of the exams.

ISTEP scores went up statewide in language arts, with 79.5 percent of students passing, just a fraction of a percentage point higher than last year.

Math scores were higher as well:, with 82.7 percent of students passing compared with 81.2 percent a year ago.

About 73.5 percent of students passed both sections.

“Despite considerable difficulties, our students improved their overall performance yet again, and deserve our congratulations,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz in a prepared statement.

Last spring, server problems at CTB/McGraw-Hill – which administers the test – led to problems for the computer-based exam. Some students were kicked out of the test or had to pause in the middle of an exam. Some had to start their tests over and the state was forced to expand the testing window to ensure that all students had an opportunity to complete the exams.

In all, about 78,000 students suffered testing interruptions, although an independent analysis found the problems did not have a measurable negative impact on statewide scores.

Still, the Indiana Department of Education invalidated nearly 1,400 scores based on the amount of interruption suffered by the students.

The problems delayed the release of ISTEP scores, according to Ritz’s office. Earlier this month, parents and teachers gained access to individual student scores.

Statewide, scores were up across all grades in math. However, in English/language arts, students fared worse in Grades 3, 6 and 7.

“We celebrate every time Hoosier students show gains in the classroom,” said Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children, a group that is advocating for a nationally-recognized set of standards called Common Cores.

“Our students, teachers and administrators deserve credit for these improved scores,” he said. “It shows we are on a positive trajectory with the reforms Indiana has put in place over the last three years.”

But Ohlemiller said ISTEP has not “done an adequate job of truly assessing students’ college- and career-readiness.”

The state will be phasing out the ISTEP test but it can’t replace it until the Board of Education settles on a new set of standards. The board initially voted to implement Common Core but lawmakers ordered a pause in its implementation and state officials are now reconsidering.

“Indiana needs to move forward with Common Core standards and a smarter, next-generation test so that we can finally start being honest with students and their parents about how ready they are for life after high school,” Ohlemiller said.

Larry Grau, the state director of the Indiana Democrats for Education Reform, said the scores “are good news for Hoosier students and teachers, who continue to work hard in the classroom to improve outcomes in critical learning areas.”

“We’re working hard as a state to make sure our kids are well prepared for the world beyond high school, and we should be thankful that those who make it their life’s work to help them succeed were able to do so despite testing glitches and the bickering that ensued,” he said. “Folks at the Statehouse could learn a lot from our students and teachers: Keep calm and carry on.”

The state has not yet released science scores. Those sections of the test were based on new standards adopted in 2010. The State Board of Education must still determine the scores for that section that will constitute passing.

The release of science scores is anticipated in late October.

School and corporation level data can be found here.

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