On the Beat in Bluffton

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Southern Wells principal to parents: Students will fail ISTEP

Students at Southern Wells will fail the state's standardized test this year.

That was the message Tuesday from Principal Chad Yencer of Southern Wells Junior/Senior High School.

In a letter to parents posted on the school district's website, Yencer urged parents to consider the effects of this year's more difficult ISTEP+, which was given in the spring to students in grades three through eight. The test, which is tied to things such as teacher pay and school funding, also was based on newer, tougher state education standards.

"ISTEP+ is just one measure of student learning, and in no way has it been reflective of all of your student's knowledge, skills or ability," Yencer wrote. "Many students will fail the ISTEP+ for the first time this year. Please encourage your son or daughter to keep working hard in those classes and avoid being (discouraged) about their performance.

"A failing exam this year does not mean that your student was not giving a great effort."

The Indiana Department of Education began releasing students' test scores to parents last week. Since then, school leaders across the state have been working to sift through the data.

Wayne Barker, Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District superintendent, said Monday he also expects a drop in test scores.

How big of a drop among local students' scores is unclear, but Yencer said in his letter 13 to 17 percent more students will fail the English portion of the ISTEP+ this year. The state could see up to 30 percent more failing scores on the math portion of the tests, he said.

ISTEP+ scores also are used to calculate A-F accountability grades given each year to schools and school districts.

Gov. Mike Pence and Republican state lawmakers have expressed support for measures to shield teachers from penalties on job evaluations that could result from low scores. There is no specific plan in place, however.

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