Hoosier school scores lag behind pre-pandemic rates

·5 min read

Jul. 13—State and local education officials are pointing to improvements made in 2022 ILEARN test scores as schools continue to recover from disruptions caused by the pandemic.

But overall, Hoosier scores remain below 2019 pre-pandemic pass rates.

Statewide, ILEARN results show that 41.2% of Indiana students in grades 3-8 scored at or above proficiency standards in English/language arts, and 39.4% did so in math.

Also, 30.2% of students are at proficiency or higher for both subjects.

Most grade levels and student populations had increases of 1% to 4% in math and ELA proficiency rates, the state reports.

Vigo County School Corp. scores show that 32.4% are proficient or above in English/language arts, 33.7% in math, and 23.4% are proficient or above in both subject areas.

The Indiana Department of Education on Wednesday released statewide ILEARN results, as well as results of a study on COVID-19's academic impact on student learning.

The study showed "that while learning is stabilizing or recovering for many Indiana students, innovative and collaborative accelerated learning activities must be implemented to increase academic momentum for all Hoosier students," according to an IDOE news release.

According to VCSC officials, students locally made significant math gains, improving in five of six tested grades; students improved in nine of 15 tested content areas; and they performed in the top third of large urban districts.

ILEARN tests students in grades 3-8 in English/language arts and math. Science is tested in grades 4 and 6, and social studies is tested in grade 5.

"What we really want to focus on is that we have shown good growth and in several subject areas," said Teresa Stuckey, VCSC communications director and director of elementary education.

To provide context for its scores, the district compares itself to the largest districts in the Indiana Urban Schools Association. Among the top 10 districts in the IUSA, Vigo County ranked first in math and first in science at grade 4.

VCSC students also scored in the top three of those IUSA districts in all 15 tested areas on ILEARN, except at grade six — scoring fourth.

"I think that's the most telling, when we are looking at ourselves compared to districts that are similar to us," Stuckey said.

It's also important to keep in perspective that academic achievement statewide has been affected by the pandemic, she said. "We are recovering from the pandemic, yet we are making gains."

VCSC math scores showed the most gains, with 2022 math scores improving in five out of the six tested grades compared to 2021 results.

"The VCSC was especially pleased to show growth in math achievement at all three grade levels in middle school this year," said Karen Goeller, VCSC deputy superintendent. "For the past few years, middle school math scores have been the lowest area of student performance on ILEARN for Vigo County."

Teachers have continued to work to strengthen math achievement at the middle school level. Last year, middle school math teachers used both a core math program and a supplemental math digital program during enrichment time.

The district also used federal ESSER grant funds to provide after-school tutoring in language arts and math.

In grade 6, math scores improved from 17.3% meeting standards last year to 22.8% this year, a gain of 5.5 percentage points. In Grade 8, math scores improved from 16.9% passing to 21.4%, or 4.5 points.

"Teachers, principals and all other VCSC staff should be commended for providing excellent instruction, including 'catch up' growth, in a year following student learning losses from the impact of the pandemic," Goeller stated.

By grade level, VCSC proficiency or above scores are as follows: Grade 3, 31.8% English/language arts, 45.7% math; Grade 4, 37.4% E/LA, 47.1% math; Grade 5, 37% E/LA, 41.3% math; Grade 6, 24% E/LA, 22.8% math; Grade 7, 29.1% E/LA, 22.6%math; Grade 8, 35.1% E/LA, 21.4% math; VCSC total, 32.4% E/LA, 33.7% math, 23.4% both.

According to Associated Press, Indiana students had small improvements in their English and math scores on statewide standardized tests given last spring. Results "indicate a tentative bright spot after COVID-19 disrupted classrooms over the past three school years."

State results show the statewide percentage of students meeting their grade expectations for math climbing to 39.4% from 2021′s 36.9%. The English proficiency levels rose to 41.2%, up from last year's 40.5%.

This year's rates of students with passing scores remain about 7 or 8 percentage points below 2019′s pre-pandemic pass rates, AP reported.

As in the past, disparities among students' racial and economic groups are present in the new results. Black students had the lowest 2022 pass rates at 19% in English and 14% in math. White students, meanwhile, had a 48% proficiency in English and 47% in math, according to AP.

Katie Jenner, Indiana secretary of education, stated in a news release:

"Today we're seeing the positive collective impact we can have when educators, communities and families come together to support our students' learning. Foundational learning in English/language arts and math is stabilizing or recovering for most of our students, and Indiana's educators and students should be proud of this progress.

"At the same time, we must continue to aggressively pursue innovative solutions to best support all of our students, especially our students who are still overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic, as well as students who were underperforming prior to the pandemic."

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.