I read you read

Reading scores jump at some Indianapolis Public Schools, while others flounder

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

Indianapolis Public Schools posted higher scores on the state’s third-grade reading test this year — but the gains were not universal. Several of the district’s most struggling schools actually saw their scores fall, an IPS official announced last week.

Districtwide, 72.5 percent of third-graders passed the IREAD exam so far this year, up 6 percentage points over 2015, according Deputy Superintendent Wanda Legrand, who presented the preliminary scores at an IPS school board meeting.

“We are trending high this year,” said Legrand.

Many schools made double-digit gains. When educators at School 56 noticed this year that test scores were lagging, they decided to redouble their focus on a big issue — how well students understand what they read.

“We’ve been working really hard,” principal Christine Rembert told Chalkbeat in April when discussing the precipitous decline in ISTEP scores at the school in 2015.

When the district received its IREAD scores, School 56 was one of two IPS schools where 100 percent of students passed.

The 37-point increase was an impressive feat for the Montessori magnet school, whose students are mostly poor. The only other school with a perfect pass rate was Merle Sidener Gifted Academy, which screens students by academic ability.

Other schools that saw big gains between 2015 and 2016 include:

  • School 83 — from 40.8 percent to 83.3 percent
  • School 69 — from 31 percent to 56 percent
  • School 96 — from 53.3 percent to 76.8 percent
  • School 54 — from 33.7 percent to 56.6 percent
  • School 19 — from 66 percent to 88.4 percent
  • School 107 — from 55 percent to 76.7 percent
  • Phalen Leadership Academy at School 103 — from 29.8 percent to 61.2 percent

But not all schools saw their scores rise so much. At transformation zone schools — low-performing schools that are receiving special attention and resources from the district — pass rates actually declined by about 5 percentage points, to 63.5 percent. Legrand said one problem at those schools was that some teaching positions were vacant.

The scores are preliminary and the district pass rate is expected to improve because students who have not passed the test may retake it during the summer. Although exceptions apply, students who don’t pass the retest are often held back in third grade.

ASD scores

In Tennessee’s turnaround district, 9 in 10 young students fall short on their first TNReady exams

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Nine out of 10 of elementary- and middle-school students in Tennessee’s turnaround district aren’t scoring on grade level in English and math, according to test score data released Thursday.

The news is unsurprising: The Achievement School District oversees 32 of the state’s lowest-performing schools. But it offers yet another piece of evidence that the turnaround initiative has fallen far short of its ambitious original goal of vaulting struggling schools to success.

Around 5,300 students in grades 3-8 in ASD schools took the new, harder state exam, TNReady, last spring. Here’s how many scored “below” or “approaching,” meaning they did not meet the state’s standards:

  • 91.8 percent of students in English language arts;
  • 91.5 percent in math;
  • 77.9 percent in science.

View scores for all ASD schools in our spreadsheet

In all cases, ASD schools’ scores fell short of state averages, which were all lower than in the past because of the new exam’s higher standards. About 66 percent of students statewide weren’t on grade level in English language arts, 62 percent weren’t on grade level in math, and 41 percent fell short in science.

ASD schools also performed slightly worse, on average, than the 15 elementary and middle schools in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, the district’s own initiative for low-performing schools. On average, about 89 percent of iZone students in 3-8 weren’t on grade level in English; 84 percent fell short of the state’s standards in math.

The last time that elementary and middle schools across the state received test scores, in 2015, ASD schools posted scores showing faster-than-average improvement. (Last year’s tests for grades 3-8 were canceled because of technical problems.)

The low scores released today suggest that the ASD’s successes with TCAP, the 2015 exam, did not carry over to the higher standards of TNReady.

But Verna Ruffin, the district’s new chief of academics, said the scores set a new bar for future growth and warned against comparing them to previous results.

“TNReady has more challenging questions and is based on a different, more rigorous set of expectations developed by Tennessee educators,” Ruffin said in a statement. “For the Achievement School District, this means that we will use this new baseline data to inform instructional practices and strategically meet the needs of our students and staff as we acknowledge the areas of strength and those areas for improvement.”

Some ASD schools broke the mold and posted some strong results. Humes Preparatory Middle School, for example, had nearly half of students meet or exceed the state’s standards in science, although only 7 percent of students in math and 12 percent in reading were on grade level.

Thursday’s score release also included individual high school level scores. View scores for individual schools throughout the state as part of our spreadsheet here.

Are Children Learning

School-by-school TNReady scores for 2017 are out now. See how your school performed

PHOTO: Zondra Williams/Shelby County Schools
Students at Wells Station Elementary School in Memphis hold a pep rally before the launch of state tests, which took place between April 17 and May 5 across Tennessee.

Nearly six months after Tennessee students sat down for their end-of-year exams, all of the scores are now out. State officials released the final installment Thursday, offering up detailed information about scores for each school in the state.

Only about a third of students met the state’s English standards, and performance in math was not much better, according to scores released in August.

The new data illuminates how each school fared in the ongoing shift to higher standards. Statewide, scores for students in grades 3-8, the first since last year’s TNReady exam was canceled amid technical difficulties, were lower than in the past. Scores also remained low in the second year of high school tests.

“These results show us both where we can learn from schools that are excelling and where we have specific schools or student groups that need better support to help them achieve success – so they graduate from high school with the ability to choose their path in life,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.

Did some schools prepare teachers and students better for the new state standards, which are similar to the Common Core? Was Memphis’s score drop distributed evenly across the city’s schools? We’ll be looking at the data today to try to answer those questions.

Check out all of the scores in our spreadsheet or on the state website and add your questions and insights in the comments.