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ILEARN test scores reflect learning loss

ILEARN test scores reflect learning loss ILEARN test scores reflect learning loss
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

There’s no denying that students suffered a large learning loss from the 2020-21 school year being spent completely in a pandemic, with Harrison County schools constantly having to switch to virtual back to in-person learning, kids coming in and out of quarantine, battling positive COVID-19 cases and safety guidelines.

In fact, Allison Schalk and Diane Owen, directors of curriculum, instruction and assessment for South Harrison Community School Corp., noted during a prior board of trustees meeting that they have received a projected number from the state department of education that it could take three years for students to recover from the learning loss just from that school year alone.

And this learning loss is showing throughout the state as the state board of education recently published standardized testing results. According to the results, just fewer than 29% of the state’s third through eighth graders passed both the English Language Arts and math portions of the ILEARN (Indiana Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network) test. Roughly 36% of students passed just the math portion of the test, with about 40% passing ELA.

Indiana’s Education Secretary Katie Jenner said the results shouldn’t be used to criticize efforts of schools or educators during the last school year.

“This data cannot be an indictment on anyone, on anything, on any school,” she said. “The reality is all of us had a global pandemic.”

Indiana Dept. of Education officials said the scores aren’t comparable to previous years and the data should be considered a new “baseline” for the state. They said the pandemic had a “substantial impact” on students’ academic progress, but that the test itself is also still fairly new; ILEARN was rolled out in 2019, and students were not required to take the test in 2020.

“This past year was a challenge for everyone in our school community,” Dr. Lance Richards, superintendent of North Harrison Community School Corp., said in regard to test results. “I am proud of the efforts that everyone made at North Harrison to keep our students on track. Our corporation elementary scores hold up very well when compared to the state averages. Yet, we know that some of our test scores were not as we would wish and are taking steps to close the gap. We did have some strong results on several levels and are examining the scores in the areas where we fell short.”

At last month’s Lanesville Community School Corp. Board of Trustees meeting, principals Jeff Smitley and Dr. Ryan Apple both noted the impact of COVID on test results struck their community as well.

However, both said they were proud of where they ranked in comparison to 27 other neighboring schools in the area, with fourth grade ranking fourth in math, seventh grade ranking second in math and eighth grade having the highest percentage of proficiency in the entire area, according to Apple.

South Harrison schools are optimistic for the future, according to Schalk, as she has said in prior board meetings. Their intent is to rectify the damage done and look forward rather than back.

“The three-year mark is an average to make up where the kids are collectively across the state,” Schalk said. “Some schools in Indiana have not been back to school at all since pre-COVID, and South Harrison has been holding in-person classes more than most schools, so we hope to make that a shorter turnaround than three years to get our test scores up.

“We really wanted to look toward the systematic changes, like educating our teachers and challenging our students so that we can improve the corporation as a whole moving beyond these three years,” she said.