July 12, 2023

Indiana test results are stagnant for students, far behind pre-pandemic scores

The state standardized ILEARN tests are a measure of the enduring toll the pandemic took on student learning.  - Eric Weddle / WFYI

The state standardized ILEARN tests are a measure of the enduring toll the pandemic took on student learning.

Eric Weddle / WFYI

Indiana students remain far behind academically after the disruption caused by the global pandemic. About three out of 10 elementary and middle school students are considered proficient in both the state math and reading standards, according to newly released scores from the ILEARN assessment.

The results are largely stagnant compared to last year. On the math exam, 40.9 percent of elementary and middle school children passed, 1.5 percentage points higher than 2022. In English language arts, 40.7 percent of students passed the exam, a dip of 0.5 percentage points. 

Black students had minor gains in English language arts but remained substantially behind the state average. The passing rate was 19.7 percent, up 0.6 percentage points from last year.

The state standardized tests are a measure of the enduring toll the pandemic took on student learning. 

State officials said that overall the pace of student learning has returned to where it was before the pandemic. But some student groups are still learning less each year than they were prior to the pandemic. 

“We know that our below proficiency students — our students who were below proficiency before COVID — are still struggling to catch up,” said Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner.

IDOE Chief Academic Officer Charity Flores said the data should push local districts to consider how they can meet the needs of all students.  

“As systems have returned to those normal rates of learning, how do we also take action to ensure that the students have also returned at least to the normal rates of learning?” Flores said. “The ideal scenario would be acceleration.”

Some groups that were the focus of concern in prior years are stabilizing, including Black students and students from low-income families, Flores said. 

State officials remain especially worried about Hispanic students and English language learners, who are not learning at the same pace as prior to the pandemic.

Passing rates on the exams plunged in 2021, compared to results from before the pandemic. Over the last two years, the number of students considered proficient in math increased. But English language arts scores have not substantially improved. And passing rates on both tests remain far lower than they were before the pandemic. 

The lackluster scores echo national data. In June, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released results that show American 13-year-olds don’t have key math and reading skills — and they fell further behind during the pandemic. 

The Indiana Department of Education pointed to several initiatives officials hope will help students make up lost ground. They include a $111 million investment in literacy funded by philanthropic and state dollars. 

A new law also attempts to improve reading instruction by requiring schools to follow a curriculum based on the “science of reading,” which includes an emphasis on phonics. 

The state also released test scores for high school students. The number of high schoolers considered college ready on the SAT declined slightly. Indiana requires 11th grade students to take the college entrance exam, which includes a math section and a reading and writing section. 

About 31 percent of students achieved college-ready scores in math. Close to 51 percent met that benchmark for reading and writing. 


Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at dmccoy@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @dylanpmccoy.

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