INDIANAPOLIS — The buzz around the state of Indiana was that of positivity after ISTEP scores were released last week, and count Wayne Township and Speedway schools in the group that was excited about their increased pass rates from 2011.
Wayne Township was able to garner a 2.4 percent increase from 2011 on the number of students who passed both English and math. Up from 56.6 percent to 59 percent, Wayne increased the number of students passed from 3,840 to 3,999.
Speedway students, meanwhile, saw similar success. They were up 2.9 percent from 2011, passing 82.2 percent of their students in both categories and increasing the number of students who passed to 532 from 504 last year.
“We know that the hard work of our teachers was huge,” said Mary Lang, chief communications officer for Wayne Township schools. “Any gain is obviously something to celebrate, and we look forward to continuing to push our percentages up as over the past several years we’ve tried to focus on creating multiple pathways for our students to succeed and we think that’s helping pay off.”
Patti Bock, director of curriculum for Speedway schools, credits their success to manageable school sizes in coordination with the emphasis the corporation puts on each individual student.
“We’re committed to achieving personal bests, and that’s for students, staff, and parents,” she said.
Lang added that a focus on reading through the HOSTS program has had an influence on student improvement, and she lauded the volunteer community for helping the reading program succeed over the past decade.
“One of the things we’ve really focused on is reading intervention for students that need it early on, like starting in second grade,” she said. “The HOSTS program, which stands for Helping One Student to Succeed, is a volunteer literacy program where we enlist volunteers and ask them volunteer for just an hour a week, two students for 30 minutes each. We now have over 1,500 volunteers in the community helping. By working early on literacy, we feel like we’re making a big difference in their ability to perform well in many ways both in school and in their lives out of school.
“The HOSTS program has really grown and has a lot of enthusiastic volunteers and that’s certainly making a difference. Also, our teachers work really, really hard and we feel they’re doing a really good job.”
Bock agreed that focusing on each student to help them achieve their academic goals was key to raising ISTEP scores.
“We have continued to work on individualizing instructions, so we do guided reading and math, so when you come to us and test to see where you are, we find out how to best fit your needs,” she said. “We’re also neighborhood schools, so our schools are small. Our smallest is 200 and our largest is around 300. Then our junior high is around 225 and our high school right now is around 450, so I think because we’re small and we have those small class sizes, everybody at the school knows everybody else. I think that attributes a lot to accountability.”
Bock sited the desire to not only help students who had not previously passed, but to continue to help the demographic that was faring well on the ISTEP scores, illustrating that no group gets left behind.
“We increased our pass plus, and they’re not the only ones who need to keep getting better,” she said. “One of the things we’re working on right now is our new grant with the National Science Foundation that works on math and science. We are working hard for the kids at the top as well to get all of our kids to be high level thinkers.”