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Wednesday, September 04, 2019 8:43 am

Fewer than half of Hoosier students pass ILEARN

Niki Kelly and Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Fewer than half of Indiana's students passed the new ILEARN standardized test – a significant drop that state officials already are trying to combat. 

In all, 47.9% of students in grades 3 through 8 were deemed proficient in English Language Arts and 47.8% in math. Just 37.1% passed both. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick acknowledged that implementation dips usually come with a new assessment. Compared to last year, scores dropped 16% in English and 11% in math.

But she defended the students – noting college entrance scores and those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show improvement. 

“Their performance is not backsliding,” McCormick said. “There are promising trends of student performance. This assessment and threshold was much more rigorous.” 

ILEARN is a computer-adaptive assessment, which means every time a student answers a question, his or her response helps determine the next question asked. The difficulty of the test adjusts to students' skills, providing a better measure of what each student knows and can do, according to the Indiana Department of Education. 

She – along with Gov. Eric Holcomb and legislative leaders – have already moved to hold schools harmless from the results. It's the second time in five years that changes to standards or the test are being used to pause accountability. 

The test scores are a major factor in giving schools A-F accountability grades, and are tied to teacher evaluations and bonuses. 

When asked why Indiana finds itself here again, McCormick said “we are who we vote for.” 

Locally, district-wide totals for proficiency in both English and math didn't crack 50% for any corporations in Allen County. Scores ranged from 25.5% in Fort Wayne Community Schools to 47.5% in Northwest Allen County Schools. East Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools scored 38% and 41.6%, respectively. 

Each district had at least one school that scored above 50% in English and math proficiency. Cedarville Elementary School of EACS earned the best score, 74.5%, while Aboite Elementary School of SACS, Oak View Elementary School of NACS, Croninger Elementary School of FWCS and Leo Elementary School of EACS scored in the low 60s. Maple Creek Middle, Cedar Canyon Elementary and Eel River Elementary schools of NACS, Holland Elementary School of FWCS and Leo Junior-Senior High and Woodlan Elementary schools of EACS scored between 50% and 56%. 

English and math proficiency scores for individual grade levels at the county's public schools varied, ranging from 2.4% in fifth grade at FWCS' Levan Scott Academy to 74.5% in third grade at Cedarville Elementary. 

East Allen County Schools Superintendent Marilyn Hissong said the district analyzes all student data. 

“We use multiple assessments to measure the growth of our students and ILEARN is one of the measures. We will continue to teach students and prepare them for their future whether it is college and career or other opportunities,” she said. “While assessments are part of the educational process, so is educating the whole child and meeting his/her specific needs." 

Lawmakers would have to pass “hold harmless” legislation early in 2020 that will be retroactive to the new scores. When this was done previously, a school's grade could go up but not down. If the calculation was for a lower grade, the school would receive its previous year's grade. 

nkelly@jg.net

asloboda@jg.net