Culver Schools principals had the chance to share their perspectives on the ISTEP results with the school board, during Monday’s meeting. The corporation saw the biggest drop in test scores locally, with only 44.8 percent of students passing both the English/Language Arts and Math tests.
Elementary School Principal Erin Proskey reported that scores were down at all grade levels, “If you just look at the average, three through six, from last year’s test and the year prior, we decreased in English/Language Arts 20 points, 20 percent and in Math about 35 percent. So unfortunately, we didn’t do very well, but if you compare the state average, the state average also went down 20 points on each.”
Middle/High School Principal Brett Berndt pointed out that Middle School students generally performed better than the state average, with the exception being the eighth grade Math test, “The biggest thing that we try to compare it to is how we’re doing, obviously with ourselves we’re not happy with the scores, but how we’re comparing ourselves to others, and after looking at it, it’s not so bad as we thought, so the numbers did pretty well.”
Proskey was also careful not to blame teachers and students for the decline, “I know that the test was mainly the issue, and I know we have wonderful teachers and they do great work with the kids. And I’m sure that they really probably didn’t do any less than they did the previous year. I’m sure they didn’t. So I know they’re really good and hardworking teachers, and the kids learned everything they could from them.”
Berndt added that Middle and High School teachers worked hard to learn the new standards and adjust their curricula. “One thing that we learned right away about the ISTEP test is that it’s evidence-based, you’ve got to prove why you chose that answer,” he said. “And the depth of knowledge didn’t go from recall; it’s now application. So that was something that we did grades seven through twelve, every teacher had to change a test that they’re given and make it a higher depth of knowledge to, hopefully, prepare for the test. So hopefully, some of those things gave us results, but obviously we’re not near where we need to be.”
To move forward, Proskey says all her teachers met to discuss ways to improve scores. One measure being taken is to schedule time to meet with students, and provide extra help to those who struggled with the test. She also plans to revitalize the school’s Improvement Plan. Rather than just making a plan for the year and then putting it away, she plans to revisit it quarterly to make sure the school is reaching its set objectives.
Another step being taken is to make sure parents are using the resources provided by the Indiana Department of Education, such as the ISTEP Experience. It’s a digital tool giving parents the ability to try a sample version of the test for themselves and help their children prepare. Proskey says the school’s planning to have a day to invite parents into the school and take them through the ISTEP Experience tool to show them how it works.
Berndt added that similar measures are being taken at the Middle School, to make sure students know how to use the technology, “We’re going to take a day out of the class in English, Math, and Science and do those things in the classrooms, so the students can learn how to manipulate the system. The biggest thing with ISTEP tests from last year compared to the years before is now the computer, the technology changed. So the students have to know how to manipulate that, so that’s one thing the ISTEP Experience does, it shows them how to do that.”
More information about local ISTEP scores can be found here.