Double Digit Gains in ISTEP Scores Seen at Several EVSC Schools
The results of this spring’s ISTEP+ tests taken by Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation’s students in Grades 3-8 show two-year gains in the English/Language Arts and Mathematics scores in grades 3, 4, 5, and 6.
“We are pleased to have several schools and grade levels scoring above 90% passing ISTEP this year and also to have some big gains in percent passing in the past year. We also have some pass rates that are less than what we desire and we are working on interventions to help raise those numbers,” said Superintendent David Smith. “All students come to the EVSC with different abilities and we are proud that we take each of those children where they are and find ways to motivate and educate them to do their very best.”
Smith said the EVSC is enhancing and honing interventions that target academic performance and also social and emotional issues that may be aggravating student performance on the tests.
“Now, more than ever, teachers and administrators are relying on individual student data – focusing on this information in Performance Management sessions, Student Support Groups, and Personal Learning Communities (PLC), bringing everyone together to discuss attendance, social/emotional behaviors, and academic performance – to provide supports to help all students. We want not only those who are struggling to continue to see their test scores climb; but also those who are already passing the test,” Smith said.
“EVSC teachers and administrators work hard so that students continue to show growth in their scores – even if they are not passing ISTEP just yet,” said Susan McDowell Riley, deputy superintendent for academic affairs and accountability. “Much of the work that schools have undertaken in analyzing a variety of data points is helping staff members view student achievement from a new perspective and target how to move students forward in very strategic ways.”
Several EVSC schools have seen double digit gains in either or both English/Language Arts or Math pass rates.
Jackie Kuhn, principal at Cedar Hall Community School, said some of their largest gains were seen in English/Language Arts pass rates. She credits an emphasis on the “Reader’s Workshop” in grades K-5. “Students are spending lots of instructional time reading ‘just right’ books that interest them,” Kuhn said. She also indicated that looking at the individual student’s learning needs and targeted help is making a big difference. “We are using data to inform our instruction. Personal Learning Communities (PLC) allows teachers the opportunity to look at student work and plan their instruction with a team of other teachers.” Then, Kuhn said, the school uses small groups and interventions based on student data. “This allows us to offer additional support for students who need it. It also allows us to challenge students who need it.”
Kuhn added that Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) has played a large role in ISTEP gains. PBIS, now used in nearly all of the EVSC’s elementary and K-8 schools, is a systems change method that promotes positive behaviors in students. Strategies are developed that manage student behavior in classroom settings and outside of classroom settings. All students in a school are accountable with support to behave in ways that positively affect them personally, academically, socially, and from a health perspective. “We set our students up to be successful by providing clear expectations,” Kuhn said. “We were able to reduce office referrals and suspensions which increases our instructional minutes in the classroom.”
Lodge Community School also experienced large gains in ISTEP pass rates. Robert Eberhart, principal of Lodge, said common plan times and the use of interim assessments by the teachers in the lower grades made a big difference this year. For example, he said, “in grades kindergarten through fourth, we have a common plan time which allows teachers to work with each other, and to examine through looking at individual student data, how to move students forward. They met on a regular basis and made adjustments along the way.”
He said that a goal for next year is to take the successes of the use of common plan time, and move it on to the fifth through eighth grade teachers. “We just got back from St. Louis where I took a group of teachers to learn more about using PLC time more effectively.” He said the PLC’s will be structured around content areas – so all fifth through eighth grade math teachers will work together.