ISTEP delays impacting schools

Immediately after your child brings home ISTEP scores from last year, they will start spending part of their day practicing for this year’s exam.

By the time the ISTEP results come out, the scores will be nearly a year old. And teachers won’t be able to start remediation for students who have fallen behind their peers or spend extra time on lessons where students didn’t perform well on the test until January, when schools will also get practice tests for the new exams.

“That really is not enough time to make a significant adjustment,” Creekside Elementary School principal Mark Heiden said. “It’s not even the same test. We are going to try to use our ISTEP data to look and see and triangulate it with other data that we have.”

While administrators will be studying the final scores from last year’s ISTEP exam, teachers will be preparing their students to take the state-mandated testing this spring. Administrators and teachers are using preliminary data to make estimates on where students fell short on last year’s exam.

Last week, all of Franklin’s principals gathered to go over the preliminary data and see if they could identify any spots where students tested poorly, Heiden said. Next week, the principals plan on doing the same with their teachers, he said.

But with this year’s exam coming up and no way to know how students scored on last year’s exams, local teachers and administrators are waiting for the final test results to come out.

“We need the scores back to say ‘how did you really do?’” Franklin superintendent David Clendening said.

Preliminary data is only giving schools part of the picture, since nearly 300,000 portions of the exam statewide were rescored this month, officials said. School officials do not know how many of their students had sections rescored, since parents had to ask for portions of the exam to be rescored without going through a school administrator this year like in past years.

“Everybody’s concerned. Teachers, administrators, staff,” Heiden said. “I don’t think anybody has great confidence that this is the best measurement of how great a school really is.”

Students will also have to adapt to a new ISTEP exam again this year.

Testing company Pearson will be creating and scoring the ISTEP exam starting this spring. The formatting of the exam will be different, but the test will still be given in two parts: One that can be done online or with the traditional paper and pencil and a second portion that can only be done online.

Because a new company will be creating the exam, the online portion of the test will have different symbols and formatting and tools for students to use, Westwood Elementary School principal Dave Ennis said.

Schools can now download a version of the online test that does not include questions to be used on the test but can get students familiar with how the tools work and what they look like, he said.

“You want to make sure that the formatting of the assessment does not dictate scores,” Ennis said.

A timeline of delays

Here’s a look at how many times the ISTEP results have been delayed:

March: Administrators were told to expect the ISTEP scores to come out in the fall, after the school year started.

August: The score release date was delayed to December or January because the state found a scoring issue between the paper and pencil exam and online portion of the exam

December: Scores were supposed to be released to schools Dec. 8 and to the public Dec. 22, but were pushed back by a few weeks after parents asked for nearly 300,000 portions of the ISTEP exam to be re-scored.

Dec. 14: New deadline for when schools will receive their ISTEP data electronically

Jan. 6: New deadline for posting the ISTEP exam results publicly