Indiana Students Improve On Tests, Trail Pre-Pandemic Marks

Secretary of Education Katie Jenner, center, and Board of Education member William E. Durham, Jr., right, talk July 13, 2022, after a board meeting Indianapolis. The board heard a presentation on the Department of Education's 2022 ILEARN exam results. (AP Photo/Arleigh Rodgers)
Secretary of Education Katie Jenner, center, and Board of Education member William E. Durham, Jr., right, talk July 13, 2022, after a board meeting Indianapolis. The board heard a presentation on the Department of Education's 2022 ILEARN exam results. (AP Photo/Arleigh Rodgers)
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana students had small improvements in their English and math scores, with standardized test results released Wednesday indicating a tentative bright spot following years of pandemic-disrupted learning.

Results for the spring 2022 ILEARN exam from the Indiana Department of Education 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%.

ILEARN was first implemented in 2019 to replace the state's ISTEP exam for students from third to eighth grade. The state did not test students in 2020 because of COVID-19-related school shutdowns. Students with passing scores remain about 7 or 8 percentage points below 2019′s pre-pandemic pass rates.

The 2022 report also states most grades saw slight increases in passing scores, with the exception of sixth and eighth graders, who saw minor decreases in English scores. All grade levels’ math proficiency increased at least two percentage points since 2021.

Charity Flores, chief academic officer at the Department of Education, presented the findings to the Board of Education on Wednesday. Flores said that while some student populations’ scores are on their way to pre-pandemic levels, it will take an anticipated three to five years before those scores could surpass 2019′s. This year marks the second year of recovery, she said.

“I suspect we will be having the conversation about recovery for the next several years and not transitioning fully to proficiency until recovery has really moved beyond just stabilization,” Flores said.

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a statement she believed teachers and students should be proud of their progress in recovering from the pandemic's disruptions. At the board meeting, Jenner also said parents can assist with their children’s reading and math at home, by reading to them or helping with studying.

“If a child can’t read by the end of third grade, we will continue to have the discussions that we’re going to have for years,” Jenner said. “We must continue, at the state level and at the local level, to triple down on making sure all kids can read. It is absolutely essential and imperative.”

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. Asian students had the highest level of pass rates, with an 57% proficiency in English and 58% in math.

Even so, most ethnic and socioeconomic groups saw an increase in both English and math scores, a particular highlight coming from students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, who saw a nearly three-percentage-point increase in math proficiency.

American Indian, Black, Hispanic, multiracial and white students gained more than 2.5 percentage points in math proficiency rates, the report shows. Black students had the largest increase in English proficiency rates at 1.7 percentage points.

Board member Scott Bess, speaking of the low proficiency rates among Black students, said the data was not a “surprise” discovery resulting from the pandemic. It is an ongoing issue, he said, that must be addressed.

“It’s not a lack of really highly qualified educators, not a lack of potential,” Bess said.

In the United States, math and English literacy rates among Black students are disproportionately low. Just 13% of Black fourth graders had reading skills , while the same percentage attained math proficiency, according to 2019 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), part of the U.S. Department of Education. This is far below white students' NAEP scores, which were 65% for both skills.

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Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Arleigh Rodgers on Twitter.