By JEROD CLAPP
The status quo on ISTEP+ scores isn’t good enough for Greater Clark County Schools superintendent Andrew Melin.
As a district, scores never budged a full percentage point in either direction. But Melin said with downward and upward trends, the district needs to work on making sure it meets its goals of exceeding the state’s average scores.
He said in comparing the internal assessments schools took last year and the results from ISTEP, there wasn’t much variance.
“With the different measures we’ve been utilizing, we weren’t shocked at all by any of the results,” Melin said. “I think taking into consideration a couple of key factors, I believe that there had to be some negative impact on our students due to the ISTEP interruptions that occurred. I know no one can’t measure that, but I believe it had an impact as we talked to our people who saw kids that were frustrated by their sessions being interrupted.”
As a district, math scores rose by less than half a percentage point, while English/language arts, or ELA, scores and students passing both fell by less than a full percentage point.
By grade levels, scores never rose or dipped by more than 6 percentage points.
Though they held steady, Greater Clark’s scores remained below the state averages across the board. They approached those benchmarks, but stayed between 2 and 3 percentage points behind them.
Melin said he hopes next year’s scores will see a positive trend now that some of his new intervention programs have had more time to take hold.
Last year, the district’s IMPACT program was introduced to give students who were falling behind in their studies more time to work on skills they lacked. But with only a couple of months of implementation last year, Melin said he thought this year will garner better results since IMPACT has more time to help students than it did previously.
“I don’t think the IMPACT program had a chance to make a significant difference because we couldn’t get it started until February,” Melin said. “But I do expect it to make a difference in our 2014 scores because now, we’ve had over a year of full-implementation. [There are] 3,700 students in that, Monday through Friday, they’re getting at least 30 minutes of more individual attention to improve in reading skills. How can that not make a difference?”
But this year’s balanced calendar also gives the district more opportunity — along with other districts in Clark and Floyd counties — to give students more time with instruction. Melin said the intersession breaks will bring some students across the district more intervention time, 20 hours for a one week.
He said 1,100 students are signed up across the district to attend those current classes, which he hopes to see increase in the spring intersession.
Five schools scored in the range of 90 percent passing for both math and ELA and five improved in both of those subjects. Melin said those properties could have methods that could be spread across the district.
New Washington, Spring Hill, Thomas Jefferson, Utica and Wilson elementary schools had 90 percent of their students passing in either math or ELA.
“There are these islands of excellence in our school corporation,” Melin said. “Our goal is to continue to take those islands to become a district of excellence.”
He said Spring Hill Elementary’s success is especially deserving of recognition, given 92.9 percent of their population is on free or reduced lunch, the highest in the district.
“If you look at the level of achievement and that’s school’s population, I believe it’s a model for similar schools in the state of Indiana, for sure,” Melin said. “We’re very proud of what’s happening there, as we are in other schools.”
Spring Hill, along with New Washington Elementary and Middle/High, Utica and Parkview Middle, improved both ELA and math scores.
But in those schools with high passage rages, he said it’s going to be more difficult to get them to raise their scores because so many are already performing at high levels.
“As we’ve been making some pretty good progress in passage rates over the last couple of years, the more kids you have passing, the more difficult it is to increase that passage rate,” Melin said. “The kids who are passing from year to year, it’s more challenging to get those kids who are not passing because they’re usually the ones who are not doing well in school.
“As you get to that 80 percent range, you expect to continue to grow, but the level of growth may not be as great as in previous years because you have a smaller set of kids who have not passed.”
But there’s still work to do in some schools. Maple Elementary’s third-graders had the lowest percentage of students passing math in the whole district, with just 56.8 percent of students passing. Students at River Valley Middle School struggled with ELA, with no grade levels breaking out of the 60 percent passing range.
“I think that the biggest concern is continuing to look at our ELA performance,” Melin said. “That’s part of why we put together that K-12 literacy framework. I think it’s interesting as you look at our language arts performance, we want to continue to increase that level of performance and get it closer to our math performance to get it above the state average.”