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News for Marion Community Schools

Together, we can face the challenges of the new ISTEP+

Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
News Blog Category - News
Originally posted Nov. 10; updated Dec. 18, and again on Jan. 6 to reflect release of scores.

Dear Family and Friends of Marion Community Schools Giants:

Superintendent Brad Lindsay would like to share with you important information regarding the most recent ISTEP+ test. Please click on the link below to view a pdf of his message, or scroll below to read the text of the letter here. Thank you for your continued support of MCS!

Here is the full text of the letter linked above: 

Jan. 6, 2016

Families and Friends of our Marion Community Schools Giants:

Last spring, our children took a new state test. Based on information from the Indiana Department of Education, we expect school-wide results to be made public in late December. While this test was still labeled with the name “ISTEP+” it is not the same test that was previously given, and because of that the results cannot fairly or justly be compared to previous years’ tests.

This new test is based on new standards, the “Indiana College and Career Readiness Standards”. These new standards are much more challenging and difficult, and are meant to help better prepare our students to be ready to compete in the global marketplace — to compete with students around the world.

The new test, then, is based on much higher expectations. This test is more difficult than the old ISTEP+ because it is based on more challenging standards. Additionally, the score needed for a student to achieve a “Pass” rating is higher. While the scoring categories are the same — Pass Plus (the highest), Pass, and Did Not Pass — it takes a higher level of achievement to reach the Pass or Pass Plus ratings on the new, more difficult test. Because the bar has been set higher, fewer students will achieve the Pass or Pass Plus rating. This will be seen here in Marion and across the state.

Here is a look at events that have had a profound impact on our students in Marion, and students around the state:
  • Summer 2010: Indiana approves the Common Core Standards, and schools across the state began to develop curriculum and identify supporting instructional resources.
  • 2013/early 2014: (after three years of planning by educators to transition to the new set of standards), Indiana pauses and then formally withdraws from Common Core Standards.
  • April 2014: Indiana State Board of Education formally approves Indiana College and Career Ready Standards (leaving school districts only a few weeks to develop new curriculum and identify supporting resources prior to the start of the 2014-15 academic year).
  • February 2015: Newly developed ISTEP+ test is approved. Educators soon learn it will take 20 hours for students to complete the test. After public outcry, state officials quickly move to cut test down to 12 hours. Different forms of the test are administered to different students, even within the same grade level in a single school district.
  • Spring 2015: New College and Career Readiness test is administered to sophomores. This is separate from and in addition to the End-of-Course Assessments that have been a main component of school accountability at the high school level. At Marion, only a small percentage of students take the additional CCR test in Spring 2015, because information on this test and its impact on school accountability is unclear going into the testing period.
  • Summer through October 2015: A committee works with Indiana of Department of Education to determine passing scores for the new test. During this process it is discovered that paper/pencil versions of the assessment were less difficult than the online versions. IDOE decides to award bonus points to all students who took online versions. Many questions arise as to the validity of this process.
  • January 2016: Finalized ISTEP+ scores are released and unembargoed for media/public discussion. This is just a few weeks before the next round of ISTEP+ testing is set to begin (leaving very little time to adjust curriculum and supporting resources based on what the 2014-15 scores reveal).

The Bottom Line: Schools had little time to prepare for the changes in standards and assessments that were swiftly enacted last year, and we are still striving to understand what is expected this spring, when we will take the new ISTEP+ again!

It is important to remember that this new test is like laying a new foundation for a new building. It will be tempting to compare these scores and these passing rates to last year’s (and in fact, current state school accountability procedures would unjustly do so). That is not a fair or just comparison because this is the first time our children have taken this new test with the much higher passing bar. 

These scores will give us important information that we will use to continue to improve opportunities for our children to master these more difficult standards, to meet these higher expectations, and to strive to reach that higher bar set for a Pass or Pass Plus rating. Fewer children reaching that higher bar this first year is not a failure. It is a reflection of higher standards and new challenges. It is important that our parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the entire community face these new challenges together!

Our Marion Community Schools TEAM is determined to make better happen for our children and our community. We believe the rallying cry: Giants Fight, Never Die! Our children and our community CAN SUCCEED, but only if WE WORK together to face the challenges. Together WE CAN give our children the opportunity to succeed. Together WE CAN prepare our Marion GIANTS of today to become the global GIANTS of tomorrow. Thank you for your faith, support and commitment to Marion Community Schools!

Thankful to serve our children and our community which is our cause,

Brad Lindsay, Superintendent of Marion Community Schools
Keith Burke, Principal of Marion High School
Dawn Morgan, Principal of McCulloch Junior High School
Melissa Richards, Principal of Justice Intermediate School
David Khalouf, Principal of Kendall Elementary School
Anne Liddick, Principal of Frances Slocum Elementary School
Lendon Schwartz, Principal of Riverview Elementary School
Anthony Williams, Principal of Allen Elementary School