Are Children Learning

More Hoosier schools got As from the state in 2017. But most school grades didn’t change.

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
Angie Kendall, a master teacher at Southport Elementary School, works with a student. The school received an A from the state this year.

As with this year’s ISTEP scores, not much changed when it came to 2017 A-F grades for Indiana schools.

Compared to 2016, almost a quarter of schools improved by one or more letter grades in 2017, and about the same number saw grades drop. But more than half of schools ended up with the same grade as last year. This is not surprising, because test passing rates have been stagnant across the state — and tests are still major factors in the state accountability grades.

Find your school’s 2017 ISTEP scores here

The Indiana State Board of Education released 2017 A-F school grades at its meeting today.

“I am encouraged by the results of our current accountability grades as an indication of the great education Indiana students are receiving,” said state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick in a statement. “Our work, however, is not finished.”

The number of A-rated schools increased slightly from last year to almost 30 percent. The number of F-rated schools barely changed at almost 6 percent. Almost two-thirds of schools received an A or B (the same percent as last year), while 15 percent received a D or F, virtually unchanged.

This is the second year that Indiana has used a new accountability system that equally weights test score improvement and passing rates. Adding in the test improvement shows how schools are tackling the tougher tests that are part of more rigorous academic standards that started in 2014.

When you separate proficiency from test score growth, a little more than 2 percent of schools received the highest passing rates for elementary and middle school students, while almost three quarters improved. Even though it remains difficult for schools to get students to high scores, most seem to be getting students to do better than last year. In high schools, even fewer students are at or above proficiency, but most are showing growth as well.

Board member David Freitas said he worries that the test score improvement piece is overshadowing how few schools are meeting a “minimum competency.”

“I’m concerned that the growth data … is masking a real problem in Indiana,” Freitas said. “Only 14 percent of (elementary) schools are in the A and B category. That is very, very serious.”

Poor grades can bring consequences for schools such as state intervention or takeover.

But the state’s A-F model is expected to change. A new plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will bring more factors into state grades, such as English proficiency of students learning English and a non-test-based measure like attendance. It’s not yet clear how that will affect the distribution of grades across the state.

However, the state isn’t ready to adopt the new model just yet. Instead, Indiana will issue schools two sets of metrics for 2018 — one grade from the state and another that will be reported to the federal government.

Read: Indiana has a curious plan to sidestep federal rules — give schools two A-F grades next year.

Indiana 2017 A-F grade breakdown

Grade Number of schools Percent of schools
A 620 29.5 percent
B 688 32.7 percent
C 454 21.6 percent
D 190 9 percent
F 124 5.9 percent
No grade 28 1.3 percent

Marion County 2017 A-F grade breakdown

Grade Number of schools Percent of schools
A 32 17.3 percent
B 35 18.9 percent
C 38 20.5 percent
D 42 22.7 percent
F 37 20 percent
No grade 1 0.5 percent

Find your school’s 2017 grade using our interactive database.

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.