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Private schools feel ISTEP pressure

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Sending a child to a private or parochial school is a personal decision for parents, and one that can be influenced by ISTEP+ scores, according to local educators.

While the stakes are high for public and private schools to perform well on the standardized test, White Creek Lutheran School’s principal said more could be riding on the scores for private schools.

“We have to maintain our strong academic programs,” Jan Buss said. “Our parents know what we are offering and see their children get an excellent education, but our school also pulls people from outside of that.”

Since Indiana launched the School Choice Program, which provides vouchers for students to attend private or parochial schools, any school that accepts students on state funds is required to administer the ISTEP+ test and participate in the state’s A-F Accountability system.

In Columbus, those private schools are White Creek Lutheran, St. Bartholomew Catholic, St. Peter’s Lutheran and Columbus Christian.

Buss said she was pleased that White Creek Lutheran’s scores increased across the board.

White Creek posted the largest gain of any local private school, with a 3.8 percentage-point increase in the number of students passing the English portion of the exam, and a 3.5-point increase in the number of students passing both English and math portions.

“It was teachers intentionally examining the areas of weakness and intentionally addressing them to have a good, solid base for learning,” Buss said.

The teachers at the school of about 150 students take the success of their students personally, which goes a long way, she said.

“Each child is recognized as a special child of God with unique talents, characteristics,” Buss said.

“If they feel special, they’ll be successful. For us, that means a lot.”

Scores at St. Bartholomew Catholic School and St. Peter’s Lutheran School also increased in all three categories by 0.5 to 3.9 percentage points.

St. Bartholomew’s scores were the highest in Columbus in all three categories.

Only Columbus Christian School’s scores dropped, and by about 10 points in the percentage of students who passed the English portion.

Because the school is small, just a few students with low scores can drastically change the passing percentage.

But Principal Kendall Wildey said that’s no excuse, and the school will work to analyze individual scores to work on deficiencies.

“As our school continues to grow and we gain students through (vouchers), testing will continue to be an area that we concentrate on and strive to improve,” he said.

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