KENDALLVILLE — Although scores from Indiana’s ILEARN test — the new standardized test that replaced the oft-maligned ISTEP+ of years past — weren’t released until today, East Noble families were warned more than a week ago to not expect glowing grades.
In a letter sent to parents on Aug. 27, East Noble Superintendent Ann Linson told parents not worry too much, that even students who had passed the tests in previous years may not have hit the mark on the new ILEARN.
“New passing scores were set using a different framework which caused a significant drop in the number of students passing as well as a significant drop in the state average,” Linson wrote. “Rest assured, your child continues to progress and grow academically. This test does not define his/her potential or ability.”
That sentiment was echoed by local educators across Noble and LaGrange counties on Wednesday, in light of passing rates of around just 30 percent in most school districts.
Locally, none of the districts had more than half of students pass both the language arts and math portions of the test.
Westview, which typically leads the area year-to-year in test scores, posted the best pass rate at 49.6%. Following that were Smith-Green at 32.7%, Lakeland at 30.4%, Prairie Heights at 29.4%, West Noble at 29.1%, Central Noble at 27.2% and East Noble at 26.9%.
The state average to pass both math and language was only 37.1%.
While the names of the tests have changed, the attitude towards them hasn’t. Local administrators continue to put little weight in the standardized results and instead have teachers and principals gauge where students are at by other assessments that give more immediate guidance.
“ENSC believes standardized tests such as ILEARN do not appropriately measure students potential, growth, and achievement,” Linson said in response to East Noble’s ILEARN scores. “While the new AIR framework does provide better reporting to inform instruction and was a significant improvement procedurally, it does not provide a true picture of student growth, potential and gaps.”
“A student’s education should not be an annual sprint focused on narrow content and standards that someone, somewhere decided are important,” Linson said. “Instead, a student’s education should be a 13-year journey that leads to college and/or career, and life success for each student as an individual.”
At Central Noble schools, 27.2% of students passed both language arts and math sections of ILEARN.
Superintendent Troy Gaff said he thought the standardize test was a no-win situation.
“Unfortunately, we continue to work hard to meet the ever-changing needs of the kids, but as they change the test time after time, it becomes difficult to meet the standard, and as a district, we will continue to look at what’s best for our kids and do what we feel is necessary,” Gaff said. “The scores definitely do not reflect the hard work of our teachers.”
West Noble Superintendent Galen Mast said he has sent a letter to parents and the community, explaining the history of the ILEARN test and warning that the district’s scores will be “shockingly lower at West Noble and all across the state.”
Mast goes on to reassure the community that quality education continues to take places at West Noble.
“WNSC teachers and staff know exactly where their students’ abilities are in their classroom before taking the ILEARN test,” he wrote. “We teach much more than what is and can be measured on a one-time test. Millions of our tax dollars have been wasted on testing in Indiana in addition to the days and hours of instructional time that have been lost due to the statewide exam. Our principals and teachers at WNSC work hard to ensure that our students are safe, cared for, and learning at optimal levels every single day. We work diligently to ensure the needs of each student are met. West Noble is a great place for kids.”
In LaGrange County, although Westview once again topped area districts in the testing realm and exceeded the state average by 12 point, Superintendent Randy Miller stood in solidarity with other districts in not placing much stock into the scores.
“This test does not indicate the whole picture. So, we’re just going to take it in stride. We know we really care for our kids, we teach them as best as we can, our staff works tremendously hard with our kids and we’ve got a great bunch of kids here, but one test is not going to define us as who we are,” Miller said.
Lakeland Superintendent Eva Merkel said the district will review the grade level scores and analyze whether there are any missing pieces — ILEARN is one metric the state uses to grade districts, although this year the state approved a “hold harmless” provision since it’s the first year of the new test.
Although the ILEARN test gets marks from educators about a low as the scores students taking it post, Merkel was complimentary on the layout of the results districts are getting, which was an improvement over ISTEP+
“The state actually has a really nice format for analyzing any sort of a assessment so we’re gong to try and use that model for everything we do and look for gaps and we’re spending this entire year actually looking at our curriculum to see where there are gaps what we need to work on,” Merkel said. “A new test comes at a perfect time with some really nice feedback on the individual student reports that the state is giving us. I do like that about it. We’re getting some nice things to look at and some great talking points for parents.”
Still, parents and children shouldn’t get worked up about the numbers and overall scores, since a miss on the English, math or even both sections doesn’t define a student’s success.
“Any time you have a new test, there’s new cut score. And again, standardized tests are meant to continually shift the bar so there are winners and losers. That’s one thing we all hate about it. Unfortunately, kids have to not pass this test in order for it to be a standardized exam.
News Sun reporters Steve Garbacz, Sara Barker, Sheryl Prentice and Patrick Redmond contributed to this report.