ISTEP Results Show More Than Test Scores

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana (NEWS) – The annual ISTEP test results were released showing the pass/fail rates of grades 3-8 and 10th, and the results are flat. But the scores also tell many other stories. State lawmakers have bet big dollars that charter schools will improve the scores where traditional schools and teachers have failed. Those results are also mixed. However, in Delaware County, the scores tell another story.

Broadly, about half the kids passed the test while the other half failed. Is it the tests or the students or the teachers. Maybe it’s the parents.

“It looks about flatlined,” said State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. “They’re never going to be high enough for any of us. Schools are working hard to improve the scores, and we’ll continue to work hard. Obviously ILEARN is going to come in, and that transition will play into this, so it’s good that they’re not decreasing, but we always want to see improvement.”

This year, 51.5 percent of students in grades 3-8 passed both English and math exams, similar to 51.6 percent in 2016.

Nearly two-thirds of students met the state’s standards in English, and 58.6 percent did so in math. Those pass rates each represented a slight — less than 1 percent — decline over last year’s.

What’s happening? So far, I’ve not seen much analysis.

Buried in the last paragraph of Chalkbeat’s analysis is worth noting, especially for a county like Delaware where you have an urban center surrounded by rural bedroom communities.

The passing rate gap between white students and students of color widened slightly from last year. Then, 26.4 percent of black students, 38.1 percent of Hispanic students, and 57.8 percent of white students passed both exams. This year, 25.1 percent of black students, 37.9 percent of Hispanic students, and 58.2 percent of white students passed both exams.

As you can plainly see, the pass/fail gap is significant. Statistically, the more students of color a school has, the lower the scores will be. If politicians in Indy are telling teachers they own the ISTEP scores, what are they saying? How can you use standardized tests to rate teachers when there is such a significant gap between results of white kids and kids of color?

Why would a teacher want to teach in Muncie when they can go to a “better-rated” school in the county where it’s predominately white and more students pass the tests?

When you factor in the school voucher programs ushered in by politicians, what are the expected results of allowing parents to move their kids from one school district to another or use their dollars intended for public schools to subsidize private school tuition?

They make speeches that vouchers and “scholarships” help kids of color, but like most of their speeches, it’s just empty rhetoric.

The reality is we are segregating our kids by color. Why let your children go to an urban school where the population is mixed, and problems exist? Your school also suffers from lower test scores. Wouldn’t you be a better parent by sending your child to a rural school with “better teachers,” no problem kids, and higher test scores?

Observant readers will note that I haven’t posted any local test scores. My comparison and analysis are based 100% on the gaps in the scores across the state. Will my analysis hold up under facts?

Let’s look at Muncie Community Schools grades 3 thru 8:

  • 2017 – 37.7% passed
  • 2016 – 40.4% passed

Now, let’s look at Daleville grades 3 thru 8:

  • 2017 – 53.9 passed
  • 2016 – 60.1 passed

Now, Yorktown grades 3 thru 8:

  • 2017 – 57.8% passed
  • 2016 – 59.8% passed

On the face, I would say that both Yorktown and Daleville have smarter kids, correct? You could also conclude that Yorktown and Daleville have better teachers, correct?

Neither of which is accurate.

I can go to the last census data to provide you with percentages of Hispanics and blacks in Muncie’s urban center versus Yorktown and Daleville, but I think you’re all smart enough to grasp what is happening. “School choice” is “legalized segregation” and it’s being done intentionally by conservative lawmakers who are using “school choice” as a way to circumvent federal discrimination laws and privatize our public school system to eliminate teacher unions.

What Muncie schools are experiencing is by design. You’ll see charters and educational technology enter Muncie and replace teachers under the auspices of “innovation” and “creative schools.” Technology will be guiding students through the learning process from pre-K to graduation. There are plenty of models overseas indicating that more teacher latitude and eliminating tests will improve education results for all students, but I expect a capitalistic Silicon Valley influence will rule the educational direction. Money talks and it shapes policy.

Meanwhile, Delaware County still faces an education gap, racism, failing schools and the flight of white students to rural schools which only exacerbates the low test scores and declining revenue issues at MCS. We have a self-created crisis brought on by state lawmakers who’ve been paid well to implement educational policies developed in back rooms by ALEC and billionaires like Betsy DeVos. They already have a chosen solution for the crisis they are imposing.

You can head over to Chalkbeat Indiana for their interactive database to view your school test results.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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