By JEROD CLAPP
As one of the more vocal opponents of ISTEP+ validity following computer issues, John Reed said he’s not too upset by his district’s results.
But the assistant superintendent of West Clark Community Schools said that doesn’t mean he’s not confused.
“I’m really pleased, I’m thrilled they did so well,” Reed said. “But from our internal methods of determining those [scores], I’m not sure it lines up. But I don’t want the state to take back the scores, but it is what it is. It didn’t line up with our internal evaluations and the one we looked at the most is one designed by the same company that designed ISTEP.”
He said based on Acuity scores — a diagnostic test administered by the state — he expected to see students perform worse than they did.
Instead, the district realized a small decrease in math scores, a small increase in English/language arts and a very slight jump in the percentage of students passing both.
Where the big gains are
Though most of the district’s schools followed the downward trend of scores in third grade, one school’s big improvements made West Clark the only district in Clark and Floyd counties to see an overall improvement for that group.
William Borden Elementary School saw the biggest gains in all three scoring areas of any grade in the district. English/language arts [ELA] scores rose by 14.8 percentage points, math soared 28.8 percentage points and students passing both increased by 27.7 percentage points.
While Borden’s student populations also represent the smallest in the district — which means it takes fewer students to represent a percentage jump — Reed said some programs in that school have actually contributed to those increases.
He said the use of two Scholastic interventions — Read 180 and System 44 — helped students catch up and achieve either close to or surpassing 90 percent passing.
“I’d like to think it had a lot to do with the changes that have been occurring,” Reed said.
The district invested another $60,000 into those programs last year to get more licenses for students and teachers to use them. He said with the success it has seen at Borden Elementary, he hopes to spread that over the rest of the district.
But as a district, fourth graders saw the biggest overall improvement. English/language arts improved by 6 percentage points, math went up by nearly 9 percentage points and students passing both rose by nearly 11 percentage points.
Fifth graders at Borden also saw big gains in English/language arts and math, but their scores for students passing both subjects had the biggest drop out of anyone in the district, with more than a 15 percentage point loss.
Reed said he’s glad to see the good gains in those areas, but it’s also something he didn’t see coming based on predictive assessments the district gave earlier last year.
“Generally, [Acuity isn’t] a perfect thing, but it comes awfully darn close,” Reed said. “This time around, the kids performed quite a bit better on ISTEP than they did on Acuity and I again don’t have an explanation on that.”
Though middle schools generally saw some pretty big gains, seventh-graders overall saw somewhat significant drops in students passing ELA and both subjects, but only a slight decrease in math.
Silver Creek Middle/High School had the biggest impact on that, with its seventh-graders dropping 12.1 percentage points in ELA scores, 7 percentage points in math and 12 percentage points in students passing both.
Reed said there are some real difficulties at that school, including a higher percentage of English Language Learners headed there.
“The big thing is that our ELL population is really increasing rapidly,” Reed said. “It has actually pretty close to doubled in size at the Silver Creek campus just since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here for three years. We’re getting a lot of additional kids moving into the district and that’s becoming more and more of a challenge for us.”
A new benchmark
Last year, Henryville’s schools were exempted from taking ISTEP because of the tornado that mostly destroyed their school in March 2012. Reed said with a year out of the game, he wasn’t sure how those students would perform.
But overall, Henryville Elementary stayed fairly close to the scores it made in 2011, even if it dipped slightly. However, the junior/senior high school made some big gains without much backtracking.
Math scores overall improved by 12.2 percentage points at the junior/senior high and students passing both subjects jumped by just more than 10 percentage points. Eighth graders lost their footing in their ELA scores, but only by 2.5 percentage points from 2011.
Though the elementary school’s overall scores fell, it saw more improvement than loss. Most notably, fourth graders increased their math scores by just more than 6 percentage points.
Reed said with the loss of their school, suffering displacement and trying to get their regular lives back together, he’s happy with how Henryville students did this year.
“Thinking about everything those kids went through and their families, it’s a sign of recovery and coming back,” Reed said. “I’m pleased with it.”