INDIANAPOLIS — Student scores on Indiana’s ISTEP standardized exams were little changed from last year after pass rates tumbled two years ago with an overhaul of the test.
Figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Education show that 51.5 percent of students in grades 3-8 passed both the English and math sections from the exam given last spring. That’s down one-tenth of a percentage point from the 2016 tests, but still 2 percentage points lower than the 2015 exams.
About 65 percent of students passed the English section, while 58.5 percent had passing math scores. Both pass rates were down slightly from 2016.
Nearly 500,000 Indiana students are set to take the ISTEP exam for the final time next spring as the state is switching to a new test named ILEARN for the 2019 exams.
Details on the new test are still being worked out. Some critics worry it won’t be much different than ISTEP, which has faced years of complaints about the number of days students spend taking the test and how much time schools spend preparing students for it.
Republican state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick called the new results flat lined.
“They are never going to be high enough for any of us,” she said. “So schools are working hard to improve the scores. We will continue to work hard. Obviously, ILEARN will come in and that transition will play into this. It is good they are not decreasing, but we always want to see improvement.”
The third consecutive year with nearly half of students failing at least one section follows the ISTEP overhaul after then-Gov. Mike Pence and Republican legislators withdrew Indiana from the national Common Core standards and rushed to draft new state-specific benchmarks in 2014. Common Core, which established standards for what students should know after completing each grade, faced complaints from some conservatives who said the benchmarks amounted to a federal takeover of education.
About three-quarters of students passed both the math and English sections on the 2014 ISTEP test. Those results are used to give state rankings to schools and are a factor in teacher evaluations and pay raises.
Officials said during Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting in Greencastle that they expect to release school ratings next month.
The Republican-dominated Legislature this year ordered adoption of the new ILEARN exam for 2019, while leaving much of the new test’s development to the state Department of Education.
McCormick, who took office in January, said those developing the ILEARN tests face “many moving parts” incorporating new federal and state accountability standards. The state Board of Education isn’t expected to select a contractor to prepare the new exam until at least late this year.
“Admittedly, it is muddy at best. But it is just the situation we’re in,” she said. “I know it’s very frustrating for districts.”