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Indiana bucks the test score trend and posts a second straight year of declines

November 17, 2016

The number of Indiana students passing the state math and reading test fell for the second straight year in 2016—even as more schools saw their passing rates inch up.

Across the state, 51.6 percent of students in grades 3-8 passed both exams, down from 53.5 percent in 2015. That was when tougher standards caused test scores across the state to plummet, leaving just four schools out of 1,500 across the state with any test score gains at all.

This year, 494 schools saw their passing rates improve. And far fewer schools experienced the double-digit drops that were present for 93 percent of schools in 2015.

But the state did not see the test score gains that many hoped would come as students and teachers adjust to the new standards. Steep declines are common when tests change dramatically, but researchers have found that scores typically begin to climb again quickly.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz pointed out that the 2016 exam had a new vendor for the first time in 20 years—the state switched to British-based Pearson after a series of difficult testing administrations with CTB. (This year’s testing was less glitchy but not problem-free.) That could help explain the decline, she said.

“Transitions are never easy,” Ritz said in a statement. “It is important to remember that our students, schools and teachers are more than just a test score.”

Across the state, students continued to fare better on English tests than on math. Two-thirds of students passed the English ISTEP test in grades 3-8, down slightly from 67.3 percent in 2015. In math, 58.9 percent of students passed, compared to 61 percent in 2015.

In the first year for the new 10th-grade ISTEP test, 59 percent of 10th-graders passed English, 34.6 percent math, and 32.2 percent of students passed both exams.

Indiana is in the middle of replacing ISTEP altogether. It’s not clear how different a new exam, which could be given as soon as 2018, would be from what the state uses currently—or if it would be much different at all.

Speedway schools had the highest test scores in Marion County, with 61.8 percent of students in grades 3-8 passing both English and math. Franklin Township followed closely with 60.2 percent of students passing both subjects. Both districts had slightly lower passing rates than in 2015.

Indianapolis Public Schools had the lowest number of students passing both subjects, with 25.3 percent in 2016, down from 29.0 percent in 2015.

Franklin Township posted the highest high school scores, with 44.6 percent of 10th-graders passing both English and math. Washington Township came next, with 34.9 percent of students passing.

Indianapolis Public Schools had the lowest passing rate among 10th-graders passing both subjects at 9.9 percent.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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