The academic progress of school districts in Allen County and across the state has remained strong, according to standardized test scores released this morning by the state Department of Education.
But although overall scores held steady or increased, some districts saw decreasing passage rates for specific populations of students including English language learners, minority and low-income students.
The only exception was Fort Wayne Community Schools, the only district to increase passage rates in nearly all subgroups.
ISTEP+ (Indiana Statewide Testing for Education Progress Plus) scores were celebrated by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, with this year's scores being the third straight year for gains across the state on all portions of the test.
Seventy-one percent of Hoosier students passed both English/language arts and math portions of the test, an increase of one percentage point from last year.
Each spring, 500,000 Hoosier students in grades three through eight take the ISTEP+ test. The scores are used to determine proficiency and progress as well as assign grades A-F under the state's Public Law 221 and federal accountability laws.
More than half of all students are now taking the test online.
The test has both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. All students in grades three through eight are tested in English/language arts (ELA) and math. Students in grades five and seven are also tested in science and students in grades four and six in social studies.
Upon taking office, Bennett set a goal of 90 percent of students passing both portions. Under the federal No Child Left Behind, all states were required to achieve 100 percent of students passing standardized tests by 2014. Indiana is one of nearly 30 states to be granted a waiver for requirement.
This year, 85 schools, including four schools in Allen County, achieved the 90 percent pass rate for both portions of the ISTEP+ test, up from 75 schools last year.
Southwest and Northwest Allen County Schools both surpassed the state average passage rate, achieving 85 percent and 83 percent of students passing both ELA and math, respectively.
“We're very pleased with the results,” said SACS Superintendent Steve Yager.
Fort Wayne Community Schools fell short of the state average with 67 percent of students passing both the ELA and math portions, an increase from 63 percent last year. This marks the third consecutive year for positive growth in FWCS, a first in the history of the administration of the test in the district.
"After seeing growth the last two years, we knew we had to keep pushing forward, challenging our students and making sure our staff had the training and support they needed to provide the highest degree of quality instruction each and every day," said FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson in a statement. “We have more work to do, but continuous improvement is our goal, and I am proud of the work that has been done so far."
East Allen County Schools had hoped updates of its core curriculum would boost its scores this year, but the district's overall passage rate held steady at about 66 percent.
During an event this morning, Bennett also cited trends in increasing passage rates for minority and low-income students across the state.
But EACS saw a decrease in its overall, combined ELA and math passage rates for free-and reduced-price lunch or low-income students, black and Hispanic students and English Language Learners.
NACS and SACS also saw decreased passage rates for these populations, although the level of diversity of students in the two districts is much less than in FWCS and EACS.
Yager said because the populations of these students are small, just one or two students could make a large percentage difference, or none at all. The state requires a certain number of students identified in a specific population to be counted as a subgroup for a district. He said he has not yet had the opportunity to delve into the scores of subgroups.
But Yager said the district doesn't focus so much on percentage increases and decreases year to year.
“We're not focusing on numbers as much as improvement and making sure we use our classroom experts, teachers, to identify areas of need.”