Indiana students scored better this year on a national educational scorecard – improving in reading and math faster than students in all but one other state.
Advocates of education reform – including the state’s recent moves to vouchers and new accountability measures – say the National Assessment of Educational Progress results show that such changes are working.
Even controversial former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a Republican ousted during last year’s election, chimed in to cheer the results.
“After years of observing stagnant growth, Indiana’s results on ‘the nation’s report card’ validate our long-held belief that given the right policy framework Indiana teachers and students could achieve higher levels of academic achievement,” Bennett said.
Indiana’s marks were higher than the national average in all four categories – 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade reading and math.
In particular, Hoosier 4th graders scored significantly better in math than did the nation. That ranked the state 4th in the nation, behind Minnesota, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Also, the state’s 4th graders posted big gains in reading since 2011, ranking the state behind only Tennessee, the District of Columbia and Minnesota in terms of the growth of scores in that category.
“I am encouraged by the gains that Hoosier students showed on these tests, particularly their gains in the fourth grade,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, the Democrat who won the office in 2012.
“This is yet another sign of the hard work and dedication exhibited by our educators, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students every day in our schools,” she said.
The testing program is meant to enable parents, policy makers and others to compare student achievement across state lines.
Indiana’s results show that:
- In math, 42 percent of 4th grade students were proficient, while 10 percent tested at an advanced level. About 38 percent were at the basic level and 10 percent were below basic.
- In reading, 30 percent of 4th grade students were proficient and 8 percent were advanced. About 36 percent were at a basic reading level and 27 percent were below the basic level.
- In 8th grade math, only 28 percent students were proficient and 10 percent advanced, while 39 percent were at the basic level and 23 percent were below basic.
- In 8th grade reading, about 32 percent were labeled proficient and just 3 percent advanced. About 45 percent were at the basic level and 21 percent below basic.
Officials at School Choice Indiana – a group that supports the state’s voucher program for low- to moderate-income students – said the results are evidence of a connection between education reform and achievement.
“These scores demonstrate that Indiana is a national leader in education improvement and that reforms focused on delivering more educational choice, strong school accountability and rewards for our very best teachers, can produce the environment in which Hoosier students can learn and grow,” said Betsy Wiley, president of School Choice Indiana.
Now in its third year, the state’s voucher program allows students to use state money to pay for private school tuition. It is one of the broadest voucher program in the nation and more than 20,000 students are now enrolled in private school through it.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.