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Scott Elliott

IPS academic chief warns school board to expect a huge slide in ISTEP scores

ISTEP pass rates could plummet by at least 20 percentage points on each test at most schools in Indianapolis Public Schools, administrators told the school board tonight.

School districts have now received the preliminary scores, which won’t be publicly released until January. The scores must go through a rescoring and adjustment process before they are final so they could still rise somewhat.

Bot for now, the district’s ISTEP scores are showing a majority of schools saw declines in pass rates of 20 percentage points in English compared to last year. For math the decline is even bigger, with schools seeing drops of 20-30 percentage points.

A major drop in scores has been expected because this year’s test is measuring new, tougher state standards.

“I take it in stride,” said Wanda Legrand, deputy superintendent for academics. “When you change curriculum and you change the assessment, there’s always a drop.”

But falling ISTEP scores can have big ramifications.

Passing rates and student improvement over the prior year are tied to school A-F grades, teacher evaluations and decisions about whether schools should be taken over by the state. Republican leaders in the Indiana legislature have said they will support a bill to spare teachers from the consequences of drops in scores, but they still aim to keep penalties in place for schools that fail to raise their scores.

“We are seeing the ramifications of politicization of an issue that should not be politicized,” said IPS school board member Michael O’Connor. “These are our kids and our teachers and our system being impacted and we’re left to pick up the pieces for decisions and fights that are being made at the state level.”

As it stands today, the decline in IPS test scores is slightly deeper than the average estimated drop on ISTEP statewide. Based on the cut off scores needed to pass, established by the Indiana State Board of Education, the percent of students who pass ISTEP is expected to drop by 16 percentage points for English and 24 percentage points for math.

Parents can request rescoring for essays and short answers on their children’s tests. After the rescoring process, the state will use the higher of the two scores. The Indiana Department of Education also will adjust results, increasing scores for some students based on grade level, subject and whether the test was online or paper.

In the past, schools have been able to request rescoring directly but this year parents must make the request. To help with the process, IPS invited parents to come to schools for assistance.

“Every parent deserves the opportunity to request a rescore if they look and see and they feel an answer wasn’t scored correctly,” said Yvonne Stokes, who oversees assessment for the district.

Schools will get final scores Dec. 8. Parents will have access to scores online Dec. 22 and receive paper results in January.