ISTEP improvement brings honor

BREMEN — Hard work by Bremen Public Schools personnel and students is paying off.
At a press conference Monday in Indianapolis, Bremen was recognized as one of nine school corporations in the state whose students have recognized substantial academic growth. The award is based on Bremen’s Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) scores from last spring’s testing.
“We had an over 10 percent increase overall on our test scores, which is really significant,” Bremen Public Schools Superintendent Russ Mikel said. “Our teachers have been focused and have worked really hard and we’re seeing the it through student achievement. That’s what we’re all about. We’re excited about it.”
Bremen has entered its second year incorporating an eight-step process focused on reaching and surpassing state scoring standards. The program is based on Patricia Davenport’s book “Closing the Achievement Gap: No Excuses.” Improvement consultants have worked with teachers and administrators to implement the system, and progress has been compelling.
“We are really beginning to see excellent results at this point in time,” Mikel said.
The program’s facets include getting a commitment from and training staff, examining score data to determine strengths and weaknesses, developing achievement standards and goals, working with students who need additional assistance and constant knowledge maintenance.
“It becomes a cycle,” Mikel said. “You spin it back around and it drives what we’re doing in our classrooms. We’re really focusing on the skills kids need to have and hopefully we’re much more efficient.”
Within the district, students’ math scores have historically been solid. The primary improvement focus has been on language and writing.
“We’ve worked hard with writer’s and reading workshops the last couple years to get more consistency,” Mikel said.
The dedication of Bremen teachers has made the program work.
“We told them up front that they’d probably work harder than they ever had before,” Mikel said. “They did, and they continue to do that, because we’re not done yet.”