FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne Community Schools increased its standardized test scores for a third consecutive year and eliminated its status as Allen County's poorest-performing district on the exam.
For the first time in many years, and possibly ever, ISTEP+ passing rates at FWCS were higher than those in East Allen County Schools.
At FWCS, where nearly 66 percent of students are from low-income families, 67 percent of students passed both the math and English sections of the test. At East Allen, where 46 percent of students are low-income, 65.5 percent of students passed both sections of the test.
"After seeing growth the last two years, we knew we had to keep pushing forward, challenging our students and making sure our staff had the training and support they needed to provide the highest degree of quality instruction each and every day," FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson said in a prepared statement. "We have more work to do, but continuous improvement is our goal, and I am proud of the work that has been done so far."
FWCS officials said the district outpaced the state average for test score growth at every grade level. Irwin Elementary, the district's math and science magnet school, saw the greatest increase with 89 percent of students passing both portions of the exam, an increase of 16 percentage points over last year. As recognition of the achievement, Irwin staff members were invited to participate in the state news conference announcing ISTEP+ results.
At a local news conference Tuesday, FWCS school board President Mark GiaQuinta congratulated the students, parents and teachers who he said worked hard to make the district's achievements possible.
He said the district's teachers were in particular need of affirmation, and said he hoped they would see Tuesday as "their day" to bask in the accomplishment.
When FWCS conducted a news conference after last year's test results, GiaQuinta said, the district was cautiously optimistic about the future.
"We wanted to temper expectations," he said. "The announcement today shows no one took their feet off the gas… We can safely say that what we are seeing now is a trend of continuous improvement."
FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said the test score gains were due to a range of factors, including the district's emphasis on giving teachers training and support, working with parents to improve their children's education, and offering full-day kindergarten as well as pre-kindergarten programs.
The Indiana Department of Education on Tuesday released results of Indiana's ISTEP+ tests. The results of the test, given each spring to about 500,000 students in grades 3 through 8, determine how schools are graded and will soon play a role in how teachers are evaluated and paid.
- To see school-by-school results in the region, check out jgdata.net
Like last year's test, the 2012 version of ISTEP+ included open-ended and multiple-choice questions in English and math in grades 3 through 8.
Students in grades 4 and 6 were tested in science and students in grades 5 and 7 were tested for social studies.
For the fourth consecutive year, Indiana students saw performance gains on the ISTEP+.
About 71 percent of Indiana's public school students passed both the English and math portion of the ISTEP+ in 2012, up from 70 percent last year, according to state officials. The scores mark an 8 percent gain since the 2008-2009 school year.
Of Allen County's four school districts, Southwest Allen County Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools had the highest scores, as is traditionally the case. Low-income rates at both districts are less than 17 percent.
Passing rates stayed basically the same at Northwest Allen, where 83 percent of students passed both sections. At Southwest Allen, 85 percent of students passed both sections of the test – down from 87 percent last year.
"While we're pleased with the overall performance of our students and staff we continue to strive for perfection," SACS Superintendent Steve Yager said in an email. "We look forward to working with our instructional staff to continue our collaborative efforts to show improvement."
Oakview Elementary in Northwest Allen was the highest performing school in northeast Indiana, with 93 percent of students passing both the English and math portion of the exam.
East Allen's Paul Harding junior high school, which has housed students in seventh and eighth grade since the former high school closed, was the poorest performing school, with only 25 percent of students passing both sections of the exam. The school, which has a sizable Burmese population, had 8 percent of Asians pass both sections. Thirty-two percent of black students and 11 percent of white students passed both sections.
In a prepared statement, EACS officials said they remained focused on continued improvement across the district, and said teachers and administrators had "worked diligently to analyze individual student data in an effort to make student growth a top priority."
The district praised the success at Leo and Cedarville Elementary schools, where more than 90 percent of students passed both sections of the test, and pointed out that scores had increased 8 percent since the 2008-09 school year.
ISTEP+ results at Allen County's three charter schools were mixed, with one school dropping, one improving, and one staying the same.
Charter school Imagine on Broadway had the region's second worst results, followed by East Allen's Prince Chapman Academy.
All Allen County districts had a significant achievement gap between their white students and their black students. The most noticeable gap was at East Allen, where 33 percent of black students passed both sections of the exam – down from 39 percent the year before. About 76 percent of white students passed both sections.
Southwest Allen also saw a larger disparity in scores of white and black students. About 56 percent of Southwest Allen's black students passed both sections of the exam, down from 63 percent the year before. This year, 89 percent of white students passed both portions.
FWCS, on the other hand, narrowed the gap. This year 50 percent of black students in FWCS passed both sections, up from 45 percent last year. About 74 percent of the district's white students passed this year.
Northwest Allen had 74 percent of its black students pass both portions, up from 61 percent the year before. About 84 percent of its white students did the same.
In a prepared statement, NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel praised the work of the district's staff, students and parents, but emphasized the test was not the only way to gauge student achievement.
"ISTEP is a snapshot on current individual student performance on very limited criteria," he said. "ISTEP continues to be and always will be one piece of the achievement puzzle and not the only source of information that we use to determine success or failure of various educational programs."