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County schools get ISTEP results

The Indiana State Department of Education released the 2016-2017 ISTEP+ results, which showed the overall state scores had little improvement in any grade over the previous year.

The statewide average for Grade 10 ISTEP+ last year was 24.4 percent passing both English/Language Arts (ELA) and math. In 2015-2016, it was 32.2 percent.

The statewide average of elementary and middle school students in grades 3-8 passing both sections went from 51.6 percent in 2015-2016 to 51.5 percent last year.

Locally, Westview Schools topped the county numbers. The district had 65.1 percent of grades 3-8 passing both sections, and 59.9 percent of 10th graders passing both.

Prairie Heights saw their elementary and middle school scores come in slightly above Lakeland. At Prairie Heights, 48.4 percent of students grades 3-8 passed both math and ELA. Lakeland had 45.2 percent pass in those grades.

At the high school level, Prairie Heights had 54.2 percent of 10th graders pass.

Lakeland High School had 27.2 percent pass the 10th grade test in both sections.

“There is a lot of discussion at every level,” Lakeland Superintendent Dr. Eva Merkel said Thursday morning. “We are looking at what we are shooting for and what it (results) mean to us.”

The state release noted that schools will take the ISTEP+ one more time in 2017-2018, before rolling out a new test in 2018-2019. Another change in the test is a frustrating factor for many educators. “I’m not saying we can’t do better,” Merkel said. “But give us a target and leave it there.”

Another frustration is the delay in getting results. Merkel voiced the concern that the state is paying a company millions of dollars that can’t get the results out in a timely fashion that would make them useful to schools. “They need to give the information to use in a way so it can be used immediately,” Merkel stated. “We want our kids to be successful,” she added, noting that the frustration of the changes and delays is felt in the classrooms, as well.

Westview Superintendent Dr. Randy Zimmerly echoed the concern with how long it takes to get the results. “It’s disappointing that, in today’s age, we can’t have an assessment that gives us the results quicker,” he said. “The results are six months old, now. That doesn’t help with our instruction.” There is a lot of development in six months, especially with younger students.

“I appreciate the efforts of our students and staff,” he added. “They take it seriously and are doing their best. And the other schools can say the same, but it’s disappointing we’re a full month into the school year before we get the results.”

The results, though, are a good affirmation for the corporation. “It validates that we do have a good system,” Zimmerly said. “We have high quality teachers and staff in from of a manageable class size.”

They are currently working toward a referendum in the fall that will allow the district to keep the high-quality staff and smaller class sizes that Zimmerly sees as the foundation for this system. He added that he hopes the community sees that, too, as the referendum approaches.

Prairie Heights Superintendent Jeff Reed was out of his office Thursday morning and unavailable for comment.