By Stuart Hirsch and Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Most Madison County schools fared better than last year in the annual ISTEP scores.
Anderson schools experienced dips — except for Tenth Street Elementary and Highland Middle schools. Overall, 84.7 percent of the district’s students passed both the math and English/language arts elements. In 2012, the district had 58.1 percent passing rate.
This year’s result rated slightly higher than Alexandria’s 82 percent or Elwood’s 82.2 percent although both had fewer students taking the test. The Frankton-Lapel district posted a 71.9 percent passing in both tests with South Madison registering a 77.7 percent passing rate.
Private schools showed mostly positive signs.
When Indiana Anderson Christian Academy administered the ISTEP test last year for the first time since accepting vouchers, students teachers didn’t know quite what to expect, said school Administrator Kevin Plew. The school’s combined pass rate of 63.6 percent, although disappointing, wasn’t surprising.
He said students seeing the test for the first time were not aware of some of the testing methods, particularly the essay questions on the English part of the exam.
“I think a lot of our students were anticipating multiple-choice questions, and that probably threw them some,” Plew said.
Plew believes next year’s results will be better because when the test was administered this spring, teachers prepared by emphasizing the use of essay questions more. Students at the school did much better on the math portion of the test with pass rate of 82.1 percent.
The overall pass rate at Anderson Christian School was 84.6 percent.
“As a gauge of achievement, the overall pass rate of 84.9 percent shows that Anderson Christian Academy is meeting the needs of the students who passed,” said Tom Snell, school administrator.
He said 37 students enrolled in grades three through eight took the ISTEP tests last year out of a total enrollment of 170 students.
“Of those that didn’t pass, we haven’t had time yet to analyze individual students to see what their specific shortcomings are,” to determine what content in the standards they had difficulty with, he said.
“Some of the kids who probably struggled the most in passing both areas of the test are students we probably haven’t had since the very beginning,” Snell said.
He said the results don’t show any classwide deficiencies, which would have been a significant concern. “If there was a classwide deficiency, than we’d say that’s a problem with our curriculum and our program, but we haven’t found that,” Snell said.
Frankton-Lapel schools earned increases in a few scores, but for the most part saw numbers drop across the school district, particularly at Frankton Junior-Senior High School.
The school’s language arts and English score dropped from 77.57 percent in 2011-2012 to 75.2 percent in this year’s test. Math scores also dropped from 78.97 percent to 75.7 percent and combined pass percentage dropped from 69.63 percent to 64.6.
Not only that, but Frankton-Lapel Superintendent Robert Fields said after examining the same groups of students from one year to the next, they still saw decreases.
“Obviously, the numbers have gone down, and we haven’t had a chance to look at the numbers too deeply yet, but we’re very concerned,” Fields said.
One statistic did encourage Fields. The district scored strongly in math, and despite seeing some decreases in math scores in the district, Frankton-Lapel still boasted some of the best math scores in the county, along with South Madison schools, and Daleville, in Delaware County.
“We’re going to meet with principals, who will then meet with teachers. We’ll dig into the data and try to get to the root of where the kids didn’t do well, and try to specifically target the ares that need improved,” Fields said.
In Daleville, both Daleville Elementary and Daleville Jr. Sr. High Schools posted improved pass rates. The elementary had a combined pass rate of 82.4 percent this year, up from 78.3 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
The junior-senior high school combined pass rate jumped to 79.9 percent this year, from the 2011-2012 rate of 69.53 percent.
Daleville Superintendent Paul Garrison said the improvement was the result of hard work to examine test results, identify strengths and weaknesses and make changes to improve.
In Elwood, schools notched significant improvements in math and overall scores. First-year Superintendent Tim Smith said math was made a priority throughout the school system over the past year.
“I think it’s a good sign, not only for the kids, but for the morale of the faculty. I think it helps everyone’s confidence,” Smith said. “At first glance, we’ve seen some improvements, but I’d still like to see the numbers go up even more next year.”
Look for your school's ISTEP results on Page A2.