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Indiana officials react as ILEARN scores show downward shift

New ILEARN test scores show downward trend

David Williams | News 8 at 5 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Some parents started receiving their students’ ILEARN test scores Monday.

ILEARN is Indiana’s new statewide school assessment test. It replaced the ISTEP-Plus test.

While the ILEARN scores are not public yet, state officials have indicated they know the scores show a downward shift from the ISTEP-Plus testing. The new test is to be tied to teacher performance, but Gov. Eric Holcomb has asked that Indiana’s teachers not be held responsible for the results from the first ILEARN tests.

“ISTEP was moving to an online test protocol as well as a paper-pencil (test). But in the new ILEARN, it is all technology-based,” said Jeff Butts, the superintendent of Wayne Township Metropolitan School District in Indianapolis. “They still both are assessing the Indiana academic standards.”

The ILEARN assessments were new this spring and built with help from Indiana teachers.

Parents and teachers frustrated by ISTEP-Plus called the new test a relief. It tests English and math starting in third grade, adding science and social studies in later grades.

The state’s top educator, Jennifer McCormick, said Monday that when compared to past ISTEP-Plus scores, the ILEARN scores will show lower achievement levels across the state in both English/language arts and math. Explaining the reason behind is achievement levels is complicated.

“You have two things going on,” Butts said Monday. “You have an implementation dip that is occurring, and you have higher cut scores that have been established by the state, which has resulted in a number of students that did not pass.”

On Monday, Holcomb asked McCormick not to hold teachers responsible for the lower scores.

“I fully support that,” Butts said. “I think that is something that is reasonable as we’re moving into a new system. It should take us a couple years to figure the system out.”

He added, “Test scores now are a part of a teacher’s evaluation and part of their compensation, so that is a significant piece. You also have the community perception that is a negative impact for our teachers.”


“The results of the 2018-19 ILEARN proficiency test are scheduled to be released next week. The results will show a decrease compared to the previously administered ISTEP+ test. Since this is the first year of the ILEARN assessment, I will ask Superintendent McCormick to support my request that the General Assembly take action to hold schools harmless so the test scores do not have an adverse impact on teacher evaluations and schools’ letter grades for the 2018-19 school year. This action will ease the transition to ILEARN, which is a student assessment that allows Indiana to comply with federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) requirements.

“I appreciate the dedicated work of Hoosier educators. Bringing consistency and continuity to how we measure student progress and preparing students for post-secondary success is a shared and important goal.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb

“The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has been actively advocating for a new, modernized, state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent. As communicated last week, in response to the embargoed ILEARN results, we are proposing legislative action addressing the negative impact on educators, schools, districts, and communities.

“Over the past two weeks, districts and schools received embargoed ILEARN scores. When compared to past ISTEP+ scores, the scores for Indiana’s new assessment, ILEARN, indicated lower achievement levels across the state in both English/language arts and mathematics. The combination of the rigors associated with this newly aligned college and career readiness assessment, national normative data, and the defined established performance cuts all contributed to the lower performance levels. While frustrating, performance dips at some level were expected, as previously experienced in 2014-2015 with the onset of the then newly implemented ISTEP+.

“ILEARN scores will be made public at the September 4 State Board of Education meeting. During a scheduled August 28 press conference, I will be sharing more detailed embargoed information and specific actions I have already requested.”

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick

“A strong accountability system is important for our students and schools, but we must be sure that the system is fair. 

“I believe in our teachers and schools and know they are working hard to benefit our kids. As such, I’m in favor of delaying the impact of the ILEARN scores for a year as schools and teachers continue to adjust to this new exam.”

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, a Republican from Martinsville

“As the state recently transitioned from ISTEP to ILEARN, we understood scores would be lower since students and schools needed time to adjust to the new exam. I agree with Governor Holcomb’s call to hold harmless our hard-working teachers and schools during this critical transition year. We will work closely with our House and Senate colleagues, and the governor to continue supporting Hoosier students, teachers and schools.”

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis

“These low test scores, coupled with Republican outcries to legislatively nullify these scores, are a perfect representation of why the legislature shouldn’t meddle with school exams as frequently as it does. Additionally, this issue has shed light on a larger issue: the way we test our students greatly affects so many outcomes for our schools, from teacher pay raises to entire school funding.

“Of course I agree that these scores shouldn’t be used to adversely affect our teachers and schools. But this is a learning opportunity for lawmakers to understand how much pressure our teachers and students are facing to perform well on exams while wasting countless hours testing instead of investing in valuable learning moments.

“The bottom line is that Republicans have been running an education system in Indiana for over ten years that doesn’t adequately pay our teachers, underfunds our traditional public schools and is failing to test our kids correctly.

“These test scores are a symptom of a larger problem. The Indiana House Democratic Caucus stands ready to work on education policies that set our schools, teachers and students up for success.”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson, and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta from Fort Wayne

“Historically in Indiana, transitioning from one test to another creates the possibility for an adjustment period.

“In 2019 Indiana transitioned from ISTEP to ILEARN, which resulted in lower scores across our state. This is certainly not reflective of the hardworking school staff or the efforts of students in the learning process.

“In the coming months, we will look to provide relief from the effects of the new ILEARN assessment for school districts for one year so schools, teachers and students can adjust to the new exam.”

Indiana state Sen. Jeff Raatz, a Republican from Richmond

“We knew there would be an adjustment period as we transitioned from ISTEP to ILEARN. While these results are not the ones we had hoped for, the value of Hoosier students and teachers is not defined by test scores, but by the learning being accomplished in the classroom. We are taking a hard look at our overall state accountability system. Our priority continues to be preparing students for life after high school, whether they enter the workforce immediately or continue their education.”

Indiana state Rep. Bob Behning, a Republican from Indianapolis