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ILEARN scores will bring adjustments, superintendents say

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

Area students didn’t fare any better than many students across Indiana on the state’s new ILEARN exam, and local superintendents say they are already hard at work making the changes to improve.

Statewide results for the 2019 ILEARN, released on Wednesday, showed that only 47.9 percent of Indiana students in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded proficiency standards in language arts, according to The Associated Press, and 47.8 percent met or exceeded them in math.

Locally, 43.10 percent of students at Peru Community Schools met the standards in language arts while 42.2 percent did in math, according to a report released by the Indiana Department of Education. At Maconaquah Schools, the numbers were 43.5 percent in language arts and 38.4 percent in math. At North Miami, they were 43.3 percent in English and 39.70 percent for math.

“I would say the reaction in general is, they were not surprising,” North Miami superintendent Kenneth Hanson told the Tribune on Friday when asked about the results.

His thoughts seemed to echo those of officials around the state, many of whom had signalled that scores on the new, computer-based assessment were expected to drop in the transition away from the old ISTEP exam.

Even before the ILEARN results were released to the public, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders called for lawmakers to approve a one-year delay in using those test scores so they don’t hurt teacher evaluations or the A-F ratings for schools.

State schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said the two exams aren’t comparable, as the new test covers some different material and uses tougher standards for determining whether students are making sufficient progress as they advance through grade.

More than half of Indiana’s schools would receive D or F ratings if the state Department of Education used the new test results to produce those ratings, she said. About 15 percent of schools received such ratings based on last year’s ISTEP exam.

McCormick said she doesn’t believe the state’s students are backsliding, pointing to national tests that show Indiana students exceeding the national average scores.

Hanson and his colleagues, Peru superintendent Sam Watkins and Maconaquah superintendent James Callane said the delay in using the test scores in school ratings would be welcome, though they are not going to drag their feet in making adjustments.

All three corporations enjoyed “B” ratings in both of the previous two school years and the superintendents said scores will reflect those ratings again, now that they know what state leaders want assessed.

“The way I look at it, it is kind of a baseline for us,” Callane said.

“I am confident we are going to see growth over the course of this school year,” he added. “As long as we are keeping score, we want to be the best school we can be.”

Hanson and Watkins said much the same thing. With a few tweaks to instruction, they said, they have the right people they need to show the improvement.

“I think we’ve got the right teachers in place,” Hanson said.

Watkins pointed out that there are plenty of other benchmarks for a school’s success beyond standardized test scores, and said Peru schools hit many of them. No superintendent would be satisfied with the numbers seen in the state’s recent ILEARN report, he said, but teachers were already hard at work making the needed adjustments.

“We’ve got the quality teachers, the support of parents, outstanding students and a consistent board to continue our improvement on ILEARN,” he said.

This story contains reporting from Associated Press reporter Tom Davies.