At first look, ILEARN scores not making many in state happy

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The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) released the Spring 2019 Indiana Learning Evaluation and Readiness Network (ILEARN) results last week, much to the chagrin of teachers and many Hoosier school districts, including the Huntington County Community School Corporation.

When compared to past ISTEP+ scores, ILEARN indicated lower achievement levels across the state in both English/language arts and mathematics. While performance dips to some degree were expected, the combination of the rigors associated with a newly aligned college-and-career readiness (CCR) assessment, national norma- tive data and the defined established performance cuts all contributed to the lower performance levels.

Mandated during the 2017 legislative session, ILEARN was created to serve as a replacement for ISTEP+. ILEARN assesses CCR content standards in English/language arts and mathematics in grades three to eight, science in grades four and six, and social studies in grade five.
Statewide, about 37 percent of students passed both the English and math portions of the ILEARN test, down from 50.7 percent passing the English and math portions of the ISTEP+ test in 2018.

At HCCSC district wide, 46.5 percent of all students in grades three through eight passed the English portion of the test, compared to 66.4 percent from last year’s ISTEP+ exam. On the math section of the exam, 42 percent passed, compared to 55.2 percent last year. Fourth and sixth-graders who took the science portion passed at 47 percent, while fifth-grade students who took the social studies component passed at 43.9 percent.

It should be noted that last year’s statewide and local ISTEP+ numbers were also lower in performance than previous testing.

HCCSC Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jay Peters says the comparison of ILEARN and ISTEP+ is unfair and does not compare equally.

“The ILEARN assessment is focused on college and career readiness standards, so it’s really not apples to apples when you take a look at this,” he says. “We have to remind ourselves that ILEARN is only one assessment given to our students.”

Peters adds that teachers are using other multiple measures both formal and informal to monitor student progress and push students toward mastery of their grade level standards. For example, students in kindergarten through eighth grade are currently taking the Northwest Evaluation Assessment exam.

Peters says the district, not unlike school districts throughout the state, will be taking a closer eye at ILEARN to identify those proficiencies in which students did not score well to ensure that they are providing remediation and interventions to support success on future ILEARN exams.
HCCSC sent ILEARN test results home this past week. Parents will receive a copy of their child’s test results and a letter from State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick with guidelines on how to read their child’s ILEARN results. The school corporation encourages parents to review the results with their child and if they have additional questions to contact their child’s building principal.

With the negative impact assessment results have on educators, schools, districts and communities, McCormick says IDOE will advocate for responsive legislative action.

“While the 2019 ILEARN results do not provide a true reflection of the performance of Indiana’s schools, they do once again show us the importance of developing a modernized state legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent,” said McCormick. “With this in mind, the department will propose the following legislative actions: place a ‘hold harmless’ year on 2018-2019 letter grades, pause intervention timelines for all schools and provide the State Board of Education with emergency rulemaking authority to review and re-establish the state accountability system. The success and wellbeing of our students, educators and schools are dependent upon these actions.”

At its Sept. 4 meeting, the Indiana State Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to take no action to hand out school A to F letter grades until the Indiana General Assembly addresses how to ease the transition to ILEARN. The resolution is in response to recent public statements from state leaders including Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Board Chair B.J. Watts said once the legislature takes action the board will hold a special meeting to assign grades to school districts.
The ISBOE will next meet on Oct. 2.