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May 16, 2012

First IREAD-3 test results distributed by state

Local districts set baselines; most with 80 percent of tested students passing

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Final results from the inaugural Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination test released on Tuesday show school districts in Clark and Floyd counties either approached or surpassed the 80 percent mark of third-grade students passing the test, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

Statewide, 84 percent of all Hoosier third-graders passed the new reading test [IREAD-3], said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett in a press conference, also noting that 33 percent of Indiana’s public, private and charter schools hit the state’s goal of a 90 percent pass rate, while 21 schools had 100 percent of their third-graders pass the state’s first reading proficiency test.

“I am proud that so many students demonstrated proficiency in reading this first year of I-READ-3,” Bennett said in a statement released with the final test results, “but I’m more hopeful about what these tests will do to help those students who did not pass.”

Students who failed the test will be offered remediation by their local schools and given the opportunity to take the test again over the summer. Students who fail IREAD-3 a second time likely won’t be able to move on to the fourth grade.

The test is part of Indiana’s sweeping education reform efforts and is aimed at identifying students that need intensive help before they can move on to fourth grade. It was administered to third-graders statewide in March.

The timing of the test, however, couldn’t have come at a worse time for  West Clark Community Schools and district officials say the results released Tuesday are reflective of that.

While the passing percentage for West Clark Community Schools as a corporation don’t look good at 55.4 percent, their results aren’t complete yet. That’s because third-graders at Henryville Elementary School were delayed in taking the IREAD-3 test until Tuesday because of the tornadoes that destroyed their school in March.

In the rest of the district, Silver Creek Elementary School came in at 83.4 percent of its students passing and Borden Elementary at 75.4 percent.

Taking the scores from Silver Creek and Borden elementary schools alone, the district’s pass rate comes to 79.4 percent.

John Reed, assistant superintendent for West Clark schools, said though the ramifications for students who perform poorly are serious, the district tried to keep the pressure low on them.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety about it, but I think [teachers are] confident that the kids will do well,” Reed said. “We’ve tried to really not worry them with it and treat it like it’s just any other test. We’ve not called it a high-stakes test or tried to make a big deal out of it.”

He said students in elementary schools have exhibited difficulties in class since the tornadoes March 2, which teachers and administrators haven’t been able to remedy just yet.

“One of the things we have noticed with the kids at Henryville is that there has been somewhat of a lack of ability to retain information,” Reed said. “And that’s across the board, but even more so at the elementary level.”

But he said the district is working to make sure students reach third-grade reading levels before they get to third grade by administering IREAD tests from kindergarten to second grade.

Overall, he said he was pleased with the results from the state.

“I haven’t compared us to anyone else yet, so I think we’re doing pretty good,” Reed said. “I was especially pleased with how well special needs students performed. We have some areas that I think we’re very close to passing that we’re in the process of addressing. I think we can do better, but I think we can do better quite easily.”

In Clarksville Community Schools, Clarksville Elementary School students almost made the 80 percent passing mark at 79.8 percent.

For the first year of administering the test, principal Kathy Gilland said she’s happy with the way her students performed.

“I am pleased with Clarksville Elementary’s IREAD results,” Gilland said in an email. “Our students and staff worked very hard to ensure that they were prepared for the test. Students that did not score high enough immediately began taking part in a strong remediation program that will continue into the summer. We are confident that all of our students that must retake the test this summer have a strong chance of passing.”

In New Albany-Floyd County schools, only two of the district’s nine elementary schools didn’t break the 80 percent mark for students passing and three surpassed 95 percent students passing. The district had 86.9 percent of its students pass.

All the schools scoring higher than 95 percent passing were on the hill — Georgetown, Greenville and Floyds Knobs elementary schools.

But most of the schools in the valley scored above 80 percent, excluding Fairmont Elementary at 72.1 percent and S. Ellen Jones Elementary at 67.5 percent. Both schools have a student population on free and reduced lunch higher than 80 percent.

Grant Line Elementary came close to breaking the 90 percent mark at 89.1 percent. Slate Run, Green Valley and Mount Tabor elementary schools scored higher than 80 percent.

Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent and Sally Jensen,  director of assessment and student information, were contacted but did not return calls by press time.

In Greater Clark County Schools, nine of its 12 schools scored higher than 80 percent with an overall district score of 84.1 percent.

Bridgepoint Elementary and Maple Elementary had the lowest scores in the district at 73.9 percent and 63.6 percent, respectively. Pleasant Ridge Elementary School edged on the 80 percent mark at 79.5 percent.

Thomas Jefferson, Utica and New Washington elementary schools scored the highest at 93.5 percent, 90 percent and 95.2 percent, respectively.

W.E. Wilson, Northaven, Jonathan Jennings, Riverside, Spring Hill and Parkwood elementary schools all scored more than 80 percent of students passing.

Travis Haire, assistant superintendent, was contacted, but did not respond by press time.

For many schools, the test results released Tuesday are rosier than the preliminary results they received in early April. That’s because the final results exclude students who are exempted from some of the IREAD-3 requirements. That includes students with significant learning disabilities, and some students, who because English is their second language, aren’t proficient in English.

Some of the state’s largest and poorest school districts had some of the highest fail rates. The school districts in East Chicago, Indianapolis, and Gary, for example saw less than 67 percent of their students pass the test. But Bennett also noted that nine schools considered “high poverty” schools because of their large number of students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program had 90 percent or more of their students pass the test.

The test has proven controversial in some school districts where officials fear it will mean that many third-graders will be unable to move on  to the fourth grade. That’s because students who fail the test twice would be required to take IREAD-3 again the following school year and also be required to take the third-grade version of ISTEP-Plus, Indiana’s other standardized test.

School officials fear it will be difficult to find a way to move a child on to the fourth grade in every subject but reading; they say their default option will be to make those failing students repeat the third grade.

— CNHI Statehouse Bureau reporter Maureen Hayden contributed to this story.

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