Holding steady: About 85% of 3rd-graders pass state exam

Three years after a statewide reading test was started, local schools continue to strive to reach the 100 percent passing mark.

All local public school districts saw more than 85 percent of their students pass the IREAD-3 exam, and more than half of local schools topped 90 percent, according to 2015 scores released by the Indiana Department of Education. At two private schools, Greenwood Christian Academy and St. Rose of Lima, all students passed the exam this year.

Under state rules, students who don’t pass the third-grade reading exam could be held back from fourth-grade reading lessons. But typically, when students don’t pass, they are retested, and usually most of those pass or receive a waiver.

Schools continually look to improve their scores, and the goal is to reach 100 percent passing, local educators said.

Local schools have changed their programs to give more help to students who are struggling, and teachers are able to use the scores from IREAD-3 and other tests to see which kids need one-on-one or small group help.

In Greenwood, scores have stayed steady or slightly improved in the past few years. For example, the overall passing rate has hovered around 90 percent since 2013. While officials hope to see the passing rate go up, they also want to make sure the rate at least stays steady, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

“We certainly always look to improve, but the first mark is: Have we gone downhill at all?” DeKoninck said.

He is proud of the consistent increases at Northeast Elementary School, which has the school district’s highest rate of children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The school has struggled to increase ISTEP scores, was put on academic probation and was given a D by the state in 2013.

In 2013, 81 percent of students passed the IREAD-3. This year, 93 percent passed.

“That shows teachers, administrators and staff are certainly on the right path with continuing student growth and achievement,” he said.

School officials want to continue working to increase the number of students passing, by having teachers work together on consistent curriculum between grades and schools and making sure they all meet the standards, he said.

This year, some schools saw slight declines in their passing rates. In Franklin, four of the five elementary schools had lower passing rates than in 2014. But part of that can be explained because the exam tests different students from year to year, Superintendent David Clendening said.

The key issue he is looking at is how the school district is working with the data to help students, he said.

Franklin schools changed its reading programs a few years ago to better help students, and teachers are using data to break kids into smaller groups to help the ones who are struggling, Clendening said. Teachers also work differently between kindergarten and second grade in preparation for the test, he said.

Since teachers know students learn at different rates and in different ways, by using data, they can find out who needs help and how they can best help them, he said.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the energy and focus of teachers. They are doing a great job,” Clendening said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.