ZCS superintendent: High ISTEP scores not an indicator of student progress

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By Noah Alatza

Zionsville Community Schools ranked No. 2 on ISTEP test scores with 92.8 percent of students passing, according to data released by the Indiana Dept. of Education.  Carmel ranked No. 1 at 93 percent.

ZCS has maintained a constant A rating from the state since 2011. But Supt. Scott Robison said the recent ISTEP scores are not what the district relies on when determining student achievement.

“The ISTEP tests are fatally flawed and actually measure what we have a lot of in dominant socioeconomic markers,” Robison said. “We use (Northwest Evaluation Association) pre- and post-tests to track student progress and calibrate instruction, not ISTEP.”

Robison said ISTEP only sheds light on socioeconomic problems that exist between various communities.

“ISTEP measures a lot of what we have,” he said. “Zip codes and home values are quite predictive of these scores, so it would be inappropriate to crow about our excellence from this single measure. Excellence in this fine community is a team effort.”

The test will be replaced with ILEARN in 2019. The Indiana Dept. of Education will pay Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research more than $43 million to design and distribute the test.

ZCS gauges team effort on three principles, Robison said, including parents “who stay engaged,” the faculty and support staff and students, among others. As for ISTEP tests, Robison said there has to be a gauge.

“We could and should develop an array of metrics to prove the good works of so many in all school settings without the charade of allegedly equal testing (a) bar for all communities,” he said.

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