One-third of high school students statewide passed both English and math state ISTEP exams in 2019, marking the fourth year Indiana has seen roughly the same low passing rates.
Earlier this week, the state quietly released 10th-grade ISTEP results, weeks after it made public scores for the new state test, ILEARN, administered last spring to students in grades three to eight.
The ILEARN results represented a sharp year-over-year decline in passing rates on a state test. Some Indiana lawmakers attributed those numbers to ILEARN being a new and more rigorous test. But the scores fueled concern among parents and educators and prompted the governor, the state schools superintendent, and some state legislators to call for a one-year reprieve from any negative consequences schools could face as a result.
By comparison, the stakes are lower for the ISTEP scores. High school sophomores are the only students still taking the ISTEP, which will be replaced with either the SAT or ACT by 2023 under the state’s new graduation requirements.
In the meantime, students still have to take the state test but it no longer determines whether they graduate. Students who don’t pass ISTEP can instead receive a waiver after retaking it every year or fulfill their diploma requirements by completing a graduation pathway, which gives students options such as taking dual credit courses or earning an industry-recognized certification.
ISTEP results have held stubbornly firm since 2015, when Indiana overhauled the test to reflect tougher state standards. This year, 33.8% of students passed both tests, compared with 33.7% in 2018 and 34.3% in 2017.
More high schoolers passed the English portion than the math portion, increasing slightly to 62.4%, from 59% in 2018. Math results dropped slightly to 35.5%, from 36.2% the year before.
Passing rates were lower among black and Hispanic students when compared to their white peers. Among Hispanic students, 19% passed both exams. Meanwhile, the passing rate for white students, 39.4%, was more than three times greater than the passing rate for black students, 11.2%. Low-income students saw a passing rate more than 25 percentage points lower than students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
The state already voted to delay the release of schools’ state grades in response to the disappointing ILEARN scores. But the consistent ISTEP results mean the effect on high school grades likely won’t be drastic. Grades given to high schools also rely heavily on other measures, including graduation rates and college and career readiness. In 2018, 87% of high schools received an A- or B-rating from the state.
Look up your high school’s 2019 ISTEP results.