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Standardized test scores plummet

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

School systems across the state have tried to make a smooth transition from the previous standardized test system to a new program this past spring, but the results did not live up to expectations in Grant County and statewide.

According to a press release from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), the transition from Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) to the Indiana Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN) showed an especially steep decline in results in the English/language arts (ELA) and mathematics portions of the tests.

ILEARN is a summative accountability assessment for Indiana students that is intended to measure student achievement and growth according to state academic standards.

The assessment evaluates ELA and math in grades three through eight, science in grades four and six, social studies in grade five and biology at the high school level.

ILEARN was designed with several “significant shifts” that the ISTEP+ assessment did not have, including computer-adaptive functionality, accessibility features like translated glossaries and collaboration with Indiana educators to develop content.

A summary of all ILEARN results across the state released this week showed an average of 37 percent of students were proficient in both ELA and math, 47 percent were proficient in science and 46 percent were proficient in social studies.

Results varied among the school systems in Grant County.

Eastbrook Community Schools had 33.7 percent proficiency in both ELA and math, 54.7 percent in science and 46.5 percent in social studies.

While the results are lower than education professionals had hoped, Superintendent Brett Garrett said the corporation plans to evaluate the results and look for any potential gaps in their curriculum.

“We’re not going to overreact to the data and we certainly aren’t going to underreact to the data,” Garrett said.

Eastbrook officials will present the results at an upcoming school board meeting this Monday.

Madison-Grant United School Corporation (MGUSC) had a 30.1 percent proficiency in both ELA and math, 45.6 percent in science and 45.8 percent in social studies.

MGUSC Superintendent Scott Deetz said that it’s hard to monitor the corporation’s growth because the system is so new.

“The tough thing about a new test is that you don’t have a track record to look back on,” Deetz said.

Though officials might not be able to compare the current results to those from past years, Deetz said they will continue mining the data and use additional resources to update their curriculum as needed.

Oak Hill United School Corporation had 34.4 percent proficiency in both ELA and math, 57.1 percent in science and 57.6 percent in social studies.

Valree Kinch, Oak Hill’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said while there were resources like practice tests to guide the schools, the assessment was a new format with more rigorous expectations.

Kinch said the administrative team plans to dive deeper into the data and try to adapt their curriculum.

“Indiana students are smart students, so for the state of Indiana to have only had 37.1 percent of students meet proficiency in ELA and math assessments, I feel it’s fair to conclude that the assessment was very rigorous…” Kinch said.

Marion Community Schools had an 18.8 percent proficiency in both ELA and math, 23.7 percent proficiency in science and 25.2 percent proficiency in social studies.

Marion representatives were not available for comment as of deadline Thursday.

Mississinewa Community Schools had a 34.1 percent proficiency in both ELA and math, 32.9 percent proficiency in science and 37 percent proficiency in social studies.

Assistant Superintendent Lezlie Winter said that despite the low scores, it’s better to try to focus on each individual student’s progress rather than comparing schools.

“There’s no one in the state of Indiana that can say they were successful,” Winter said.

Instead, many school representatives said they would be using other evaluation methods like NWEA, an organization that develops assessments and learning tools, to provide a better sense of how their students perform academically.

IDOE stated that a drop in performance was to be expected, but the rigorous assessment, national normative data and performance cuts contributed to the low results.

Due to the fact that scores were so low across the state, with each category averaging below 50 percent, IDOE has proposed to place a hold harmless year on 2018-2019 letter grades, pause intervention timelines for all schools and give the State Board of Education the ability to review and reestablish the state accountability system.

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said in a statement that while these results don’t give a true reflection of schools’ performances, they do show the importance of developing a modernized accountability system that is fair and accurate.