Almost four-fifths of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. elementary school classes have improved year-over-year in standardized test scores.
Comparing Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress spring test scores to the same classes the previous year showed that of 33 BCSC classes, 26 showed improvement in the percentage of students who passed both the math and English portions of the tests. Only seven of the 33 classes showed declines, year-over-year.
School officials have long said that they felt the most accurate way to compare ISTEP-Plus test scores is to look at cohorts — the same basic groups of students as they advance from one school year to the next — for example, comparing last year’s third-graders at a school to this year’s fourth-graders.
BCSC Superintendent John Quick stressed that an examination of cohort data is the best way to gauge progress in standardized testing performance, because it follows the same group of students instead of comparing them to completely different classes.
“It’s not the whole picture, but it’s part of the picture,” he said.
The biggest improvements in BCSC classes tested in the spring ISTEPs were at Columbus Signature Academy Fodrea, which was recognized by the state earlier this summer as the most improved school, by ISTEP scores, in the state. Fodrea Principal Diane Clancy credited her students’ improvement primarily to Fodrea’s conversion to a signature academy, starting with the 2010-11 school year.
She said the school, once given a failing grade by the state, has adopted project-based learning practices that give students hands-on, real-world experiences that stick with students.
She said an example was when a second-grade class wanted to visit Marengo Cave in Southern Indiana. They sold water bottles during school lunches and had to learn how to make change of up to $5 and keep track of inventory.
The biggest gain in the school district was the 2012 Fodrea fifth grade class that showed a 30.4 percentage point increase over the 2011 fourth-graders — 80.4 percent passing in 2012 compared to 50 percent in 2011.
“The kids and the staff have all worked so hard,” Clancy said. “If you walk through the building, you can just hear the sounds of learning. The kids are so engaged and motivated.”
The biggest gains year-over-year outside the magnet school classes at Fodrea were at Taylorsville Elementary School, where the 2012 fifth-graders earned a 25.2 percentage point increase over their 2011 performance as fourth-graders — 42 percent in 2011 compared to 67.2 percent in 2012.
The largest decline in BCSC was the 2012 fifth-grade class at Mount its 2011 fourth-grade scores — 78.7 percent passing in 2011 compared to 67.7 percent passing in 2012.
Teresa Heiny, director of the elementary curriculum for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said early childhood initiatives the school system began phasing in a few years ago are paying dividends among all of the schools.
She mentioned Book Buddies, in which adult volunteers are paired with students to help improve their reading ability.
Quick said the overall student improvements proves the school system is on the right track. He said ISTEP is just one way to gauge how much students improve from one year to the next.
“Project-based learning and technology are making such a difference,” Quick said. “You want to make sure students are engaged and that they have some say in the process.”
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