Dave Barnes

Now that the student results have been released for the ISTEP+ Spring 2015 test, Kokomo School Corporation officials wish to remind parents that this assessment was “faulty” from the start and continue to hope that State officials will use these 2015 results only to design a better assessment for Spring 2016.

Parents need to understand that the 2015 ISTEP+ Spring test was rewritten related to new state standards “Indiana’s College and Career Ready Standards” which were revealed during the summer of 2014 and were expected to be implemented by Indiana’s schools for the 2014-2015 school year despite only a few weeks notice. Parents also are reminded that “cut scores” or passing marks were not established until all tests were scored.

Kokomo Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hauswald encourages parents to contact their child’s teacher or other school personnel if they have questions while reviewing their child’s 2015 ISTEP+ results.

“The teachers are the educational professionals who truly know how your child is doing academically; they are the ones working day in and day out to provide a quality education, including tests and assessments that reflect individual and classroom learning goals,” Dr. Hauswald explained. “These teachers and school personnel live in our community, they work in our community, and they know our community. This is much more than can be said for the out-of-state testing companies and State leaders who rushed through the design of faulty tests while treating our children simply as 9-digit numbers.”

Since Dr. Tenicia Helmberger, Kokomo Schools Director of Special Education and Assessment, does not believe the 2015 ISTEP+ Spring test was a “true reflection of how Kokomo’s students perform academically on a daily basis,” she has been using the 2015 experience to help students prepare for technology-enhanced questions and format introduced as part of the 2015 assessment.

“As part of my responsibilities as Director of Assessment, I am always looking for ways to improve the state testing experience for our students and teachers,” Dr. Helmberger noted. “We knew going into the 2015 Spring test that many of the questions would be in a new format unfamiliar to the students. Despite the limited resources provided by State officials, our principals and teachers scrambled to find resources so our students were at least exposed to some of the new formats.”

Dr. Helmberger wished to remind parents that Kokomo’s hard-working teachers assess our students daily through observation and formative assessments.

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“These classroom assessments drive instruction at Kokomo Schools and monitor student progress throughout the entire school year since we know that ONE test is not going to determine student success,” Dr. Helmberger explained. “The State of Indiana has spent millions of dollars on a test that hasn’t provided useful data for two years. We will continue to support our teachers and rely on the data collected in our classrooms. I am confident our teachers are providing quality instruction for Kokomo’s children.”

While assessing the final 2015 ISTEP+ results, Kokomo School Corporation Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dorothea Irwin was encouraged by the fact that the majority of Kokomo’s elementary students showed high growth in English/Language Arts.

“We expected that scores would decrease due to the changes in the approach to testing practices,” Dr. Irwin explained. “Despite the testing changes, 86 percent of our elementary students attended Kokomo schools where high growth was achieved in English/Language Arts. We are pleased with this growth which demonstrates the effectiveness of our intentional and focused teaching in English/Language Arts.”

Even Dr. Michele Walker, who serves as Director of Student Assessment for the Indiana Department of Education warned that Indiana parents should not compare the 2015 ISTEP+ results to previous pass rates.

“The 2015 results establish a new baseline for student progress towards college and career ready benchmarks,” Dr. Walker’s memo stated. “This 2015 test was the first State assessment to be based on Indiana’s new, more rigorous standards. “

After the preliminary 2015 ISTEP+ results were known, State officials announced that parents should expect a 16 percent drop statewide in the English/Language Arts scores and a 22 percent drop statewide in the mathematics scores.

David Barnes is the communications director for the Kokomo School Corp.