Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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Opinion

June 10, 2014

New issues with ISTEP

Of the 11 school corporations in the Kokomo area, including Sts. Joan of Arc and Patrick, all but three — Northwestern, Taylor and Tri-Central — saw at least a slight increase in the number of students passing the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress exam, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

But don’t expect widespread improvement, locally or statewide, after our children take the ISTEP exam next spring.

In an op-ed we published Monday, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said the next ISTEP will be based on the state’s new college-and-career-ready standards and not the Common Core State Standards, first championed by Gov. Mitch Daniels but eventually dropped by Gov. Mike Pence just this year.

Ritz explained that for Indiana to retain its waiver from some aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the state must test students to the new Indiana Academic Standards.

And Ritz said history tells us, both in Indiana and across the U.S., test scores usually “dip as a result of new and more rigorous expectations, giving the appearance of a decline in achievement.”

Ritz assured readers she remains “a proponent for strong teacher and school accountability,” but she has “concerns regarding school and teacher accountability based upon these new assessments.”

She should.

For our money, the real measuring stick for a school or teacher is not the overall passing percentage on the ISTEP exam, but how individual students are performing on the test compared to how they performed a year ago.

It’s good to know that more students passed the test this year than passed it last year in most area schools, but the real measure of success should be whether individual students are making progress.

Those at the top of the scale should be climbing ever higher, and those at the bottom should be inching closer to the passing rate.

The goal of our public education system, after all, is to make certain every student gains the knowledge needed to achieve his or her potential.

Focusing only on ISTEP passing rates can lead educators to concentrate on students near the threshold, pushing as many as possible over the top.

What we need instead is to focus on every student, to make sure that, truly, no child is left behind.

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