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September 18, 2013

ISTEP scores are settled

Local school districts finally get test numbers, with mixed results

(Continued)

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — GREATER CLARK COUNTY SCHOOLS

Superintendent Andrew Melin called Greater Clark’s numbers “relatively stable” compared to last year.

“I think, overall, our elementary schools seem to perform very well, and at the middle-school level there are some areas of concern for us — especially in seventh grade, where the level of performance was lower than anticipated,” he said. “We’re going to have to sit down and break those numbers out to figure out why that is.”

Just more than 58 percent of students in grade seven passed both parts of the test.

“We are working very hard at a new approach to literacy,” he added. “We have initiatives in place that will make a difference at all levels, particularly at middle school next spring.”

Greater Clark had at least 73 percent of students passing both portions of the test in each of grades three through five. It’s corporation passing rate was 69.2 percent for 2013, down from 69.6 percent last year.

Melin said computer glitches which kicked some students off the computerized test while taking it and the fact that some Greater Clark students were new to the ISTEP+ test likely contributed to the lower scores.

He explained that when he took over as superintendent, the state had notified the district that too many students were slated to take the IMAST test, an alternative assessment test for students with special needs. Melin said it is not uncommon for the state to tell the district that there are too many people identified to take the test and the district was forced to have 105 of its highest performing special needs students that took the IMAST exam in 2012 take the ISTEP+ in 2013.

“What we’ll bring back to the table is of those 105 students that took IMAST [last year] how many of them passed ISTEP+ in 2013?” Melin asked. “My feeling is that we probably struggled with that number, and we knew that we would. We knew by doing that, to meet the state’s requirement of over-identification, we knew it would impact our passage rate.”

Melin said the corporation uses ISTEP numbers for analysis, but that the corporation is “using so many other measures to determine how [students] are doing.

“We need a stronger emphasis on reading and writing skills,” he said. “Literacy framework in K-12 is a strong part of our strategic plan. Our goal is to improve individual student achievement one student at a time."

To that end, he said about one-third of Greater Clark students get specialized individual attention during the school day, and the district has a week-long intercession scheduled for about 1,500 students starting Oct. 7 during fall break. Those students will receive about 20 hours of additional reading and writing instruction.

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