HANCOCK COUNTY — Three Hancock County school districts saw a higher percentage of students pass last year’s ISTEP test compared with the prior year, and every county school beat state averages, newly released data shows.
Southern Hancock, Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock made strides in the percentage of third- through eighth-graders who passed the math and English/Language arts portions of the exam administered last spring. Greenfield-Central saw a slight drop.
The Indiana Department of Education publicly released ISTEP scores this week; results vary across the county, but every Hancock County school fared better than the state average of 51.5 percent of students who passed both portions of the exam.
Local educators said they are now using data to help students prepare for the next round of testing later this school year, when Hoosier students will take ISTEP for the last time before the exam is phased out and replaced by ILEARN, a similar assessment.
The change comes after educators, lawmakers and parents were critical of the test, which has undergone significant changes the past few years. Scores have changed dramatically from just a few years ago, when most schools across the state had passing rates well above 80 percent.
Approximately 62 percent of Southern Hancock third- through eighth-grade students passed both math and English last year, up from 59.6 per- cent the year before.
While educators still hope to see higher scores, they are pleased with the growth they’ve seen from the 2015-16 school year, Superintendent Lisa Lantrip said in an email to the Daily Reporter.
Since new state standards were implemented a few years ago, educators have been digging into test scores and crafting plans to improve them in the future, Lantrip said.
Teachers are also working with each student individually to help them master the content their learning, she said.
Mt. Vernon Superintendent Shane Robbins said educators have been reviewing ISTEP results since the district received them over the summer. Across the district, most schools improved in both math and English scores, Robbins said.
About 59 percent of elementary and middle school students passed both the English and math test, up from about 52 percent in during the 2015-16 school year.
After about 39 percent of 10th-grade students passed the math exam last year, the high school implemented a new initiative to ensure every student is practicing the algebra standards they’ll be tested on, especially those who aren’t taking the course this year.
All sophomores now spend a portion of their study hall practicing math problems similar to what they’ll see on the test in the spring.
Robbins said he believes the extra practice will pay off with higher scores next year.
Across the county’s largest school district, last year’s ISTEP scores were largely similar to years before.
District-wide, the number of elementary, intermediate and junior high students who passed math and English fell from 59.5 percent during the 2015-16 school year to 58.6 percent last year.
When scores drop, it’s discouraging, especially because of how hard teachers work, said Superintendent Harold Olin.
But the district doesn’t rely solely on ISTEP for assessing whether students are making progress. Typically, by the time scores are available, students have already moved on to the next grade level, making intervention difficult.
Three times a year, students take Northwest Evaluation Association assessments to measure growth. Educators rely on those assessments to monitor students and step in to help those who seem to struggle mastering the grade’s content.
Olin said he hopes ILEARN, the assessment slated to replace ISTEP during the 2018-19 school year, is more consistent and reliable than its predecessor.
Across the board, Eastern Hancock schools saw improvement.
The high school raised its English pass rate from about 65 percent to about 74 percent.
Superintendent Vicki McGuire said she’s pleased with those numbers. In the past, English/language arts scores for the middle school and high school have been at or below the state average, she said.
At the elementary level, all three grade levels (third, fourth and fifth) had pass rates above the state average for math.
Going forward, the district wants to see even more gains. Educators are focusing on ISTEP and NWEA assessment scores and tweaking plans accordingly to help students who appear to be struggling.