Arkanoff: Last year’s ISTEP test a joke

Dozens of superintendents, including the leaders of Greenwood, Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove, demanded a better assessment of their students than what ISTEP provides.

Center Grove superintendent Richard Arkanoff was one of nearly 10 school officials to address the Indiana State Board of Education on Tuesday, and members voted to approve schools’ letter grades based on ISTEP scores.

Slightly more Indiana schools are receiving A grades under changes to the state’s rating system that gives schools and teachers a reprieve from big drops in student scores on the ISTEP standardized exam. Ratings approved Tuesday by the State Board of Education give A grades to about 56 percent of some 2,100 public and private schools. About 54 percent of schools received an A rating last year.

Since the 2014-15 ISTEP scores dropped as many as 40 percentage points for some schools, the Indiana Department of Education allowed school districts to pick the best grade from the last two ISTEP exams.

Nearly every school chose to use the ISTEP scores from the 2013-14 school year.

Only two schools in Johnson County received a better letter grade rating with the most recent ISTEP score: Webb Elementary School in Franklin and Edinburgh Community High School.

The state plans to release district-wide letter grades next week, Greenwood superintendent Kent DeKoninck said. The school district grades will also be considered moot, since they are based on last year’s ISTEP exam.

But Arkanoff said releasing the school grades to the public was not responsible, since it is not an accurate reflection of the work done in schools.

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson Superintendent Tim Edsell said he is glad that he could choose the best scores from the past two years, since it shows a better reflection of the work done by Indian Creek students, he said.

“The ’14-15 testing was an anomaly,” Edsell said.

By using the option the state offered to keep their previous score, the school district can continue to improve, and be able to be an A school, Edsell said.

Despite the state giving every school district a pass from last year’s ISTEP scores, a different test is necessary for the future, Arkanoff said.

“We need to create a system that creates a lot more sense than what we’re doing now,” Arkanoff said. “Students and parents think ISTEP Plus is a joke, and that’s a problem.”

The issues with ISTEP go beyond the last year’s more difficult exam, superintendents said. Last year’s exam included additional critical thinking questions, multiple-part essays and harder reading comprehension portions.

Warrick County School Corp. Superintendent Brad Schneider said school districts lost about three years of data, since ISTEP changed every year, and did not have the same set of curriculum standards.

In addition, the ISTEP testing vendor has failed to provide the exam scores soon enough to be of any use, Arkanoff said.

“The original promise was to receive the test data a month or so after the test,” he said. “I can’t recall the last time that has happened.”

-The Associated Press contributed to this report.