Scores on the ILEARN exam, which tests third through eighth graders on their proficiency in math and English, declined at all Johnson County school districts in both subjects.
The declines parallel statewide data. Results from 2019, the only previous time the exam was administered, show 37% of students in third through eighth grade proficient in both math and English. This year, that figure dropped to 29%, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana lawmakers have agreed to hold schools harmless for the 2020-21 school year, meaning schools won’t face consequences for low test scores. The state has also allocated $150 million in grants for learning loss remediation, and $3 billion in federal stimulus is going to schools, said Indiana Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, in a statement.
The decline in performance parallels the pandemic, which canceled the 2020 exam and caused students to attend school both online and in-person during the 2020-21 school year. At Greenwood schools, math proficiency dropped from 57% to 41%, English proficiency decreased from 59% to 47% and the percentage of students proficient in both subjects dropped from 46% to 33%.
During the pandemic, students weren’t able to receive the methods of instruction they were used to, contributing to learning loss, said Terry Terhune, superintendent of Greenwood Community Schools.
“We expected scores to drop because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Terhune said. “The pandemic really impacted our ability to provide instruction in the manner we normally do. We had to adjust, we had teachers adjusting how they taught. Kids were learning from home. During hybrid (learning), kids were home one day, in school the next. There were kids in quarantine. It was a difficult situation teachers were put in.”
At Center Grove schools, performance on the math section of the ILEARN dropped from 68% to 57% proficiency, and while 56% of Center Grove students were proficient in both subjects in 2019, just 46% were this year, according to state data.
With virtual learning, students didn’t get much of the classroom time and group work they needed to succeed, leading to a decline in performance, said Nora Hoover, Center Grove’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
“Some of the most effective strategies are small group work and one-on-one (instruction),” Hoover said. “Kids didn’t get the same amount of time in those instructional settings.”
In order to increase student achievement, Center Grove schools has used federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to add interventionists in elementary school and middle school buildings to assist teachers in addressing academic needs. The district also has curriculum collaborator groups, which work with school principals on adapting the curriculum to meet those needs, Hoover said.
Remediation classes give students who are struggling academically the ability to catch up with their peers and succeed in the future, said Tim Edsell, superintendent of Indian Creek schools.
The percentage of students at Indian Creek schools proficient in both math and English on the ILEARN exam dropped from 41% in 2019 to 32% this year, according to state data.
“You want to have focused and intense intervention and remediation,” Edsell said. “More specifically at the middle school, our principals are trying to double up in math and language arts. You have math and language arts and remediation class or intervention to allow for more instruction.”
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ILEARN Proficiency in both English Language Arts and Math
2019 vs. 2021
Source: Indiana Department of Education