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IREAD test scores fall for Black third graders in state, Indy; especially IPS

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After three straight years of gains among African-American third graders in the state’s mandatory IREAD third grade reading test, scores for African-Americans statewide and in Indianapolis fell in 2015, the fourth year of the test to determine how well Indiana students are mastering reading.

This year 68.5 percent of African-Americans statewide passed IREAD. That’s down from 72.6 percent passing last year; 70.3 percent in 2013 and 68.1 percent in the test’s first year, 2012.

One factor for the decline in African-American third graders passing IREAD this year is the sharp drop in the passing rate in the school district with the largest number of Black third graders – the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).

Just 48.9 percent of IPS’ third graders passed IREAD, down from 61.3 percent last year. IPS’ Black IREAD scores had been steady in the 61 percent range since the test began four years ago.

Only two other school districts in the state – East Allen County and South Bend – had lower percentages of Blacks passing IREAD than IPS.

Five Indianapolis area charter schools had lower percentages of Black students pass IREAD than IPS – Andrew Academy (42.9 percent); Imagine Schools (40 percent); Andrew J. Brown (38.5 percent); Hoosier Virtual Charter (38.1 percent) and Indianapolis Academy of Excellence (27.3 percent).

Andrew Academy and Andrew J. Brown are chartered by the Mayor of Indianapolis; Hoosier Virtual Charter by Ball State; Imagine Schools by Trine University; and Indianapolis Academy of Excellence by the Indiana State Charter School Board.

Marion County School Districts, excluding IPS, had 74.3 percent of their Black students pass IREAD. While 66.7 percent of charter school Black third graders passed IREAD, Blacks in mayor charter schools scored slightly higher at 69.3 percent.

The sharp decline in Black performance in IREAD in IPS caused the district’s overall IREAD passing rate to drop to 53.7 percent from 65.5 percent last year. Again, in the first three years of IREAD, IPS’ overall passing rate was in the high 60 percent range.

Asked to comment on the sharp drop in IPS’ IREAD performance, district spokesperson Kristin Cutler claimed that IPS schools with pre-K programs seemed to do better than other schools which dropped.

Cutler said, “The results of the latest IREAD test affirm our commitment to early childhood education. Many of our schools serving as pre-k sites saw improvement in IREAD pass rates or a slowed decline from previous years, and we believe that is connected to the prerequisite skills built by a solid foundation for these young scholars.”

Cutler and IPS’ reasoning makes no sense because IPS overall and Black students were performing well and improving in IREAD the past three years, before the growth of pre-K sites in IPS schools. Thus, in my view, saying that pre-K helped mitigate the IREAD decline is misleading at best, openly contemptuous at worst.

Regarding IPS’ overall IREAD underperformance, Cutler said, “Regarding the schools that saw significant declines in passing rates, our principals are working closely with their Academic Improvement Officers to identify specific areas for growth and to set achievement goals. They will collaborate to develop intensive strategic remediation plans based on each school’s specific areas of need and monitor progress closely to ensure improvement in the coming years.”

The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper analyzed the IREAD data for African-American third graders in area school districts and charter schools with more than 10 African-American third graders.

Of the 32 districts and charters analyzed, nine saw the passing rates for African-American third graders increase while 19 saw their passing rates decrease, with four schools participating in IREAD for the first time.

Of Indianapolis area major school districts, Brownsburg, Speedway, Noblesville, Warren Township, Perry Township saw IREAD increases among Black students. Mt. Vernon, Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, Franklin Township, Avon, Beech Grove; Franklin, Washington Wayne, Pike, Lawrence and Decatur Townships and of course IPS saw declines.

Charters that saw IREAD passing growth among Blacks: Paramount School and all three Indiana Math and Science schools. Charters that saw IREAD declines were: Avondale/Meadows, Tindley Renaissance, Indianapolis Lighthouse, Andrew Academy, Imagine School, Andrew J. Brown and Hoosier Virtual.

Two charter schools are included in the Top 10 districts and charters with the highest Black IREAD passing grades, while eight charters are included in the 10 districts and charters with the lowest Black IREAD pass grades.

The districts and charters with the highest passing rates in IREAD this year are: Brownsburg 94.6 percent; Phalen Academy (Mayor charter) 92.6 percent; Speedway 90.5 percent; Mt. Vernon 90 percent; Noblesville 89.3 percent; Carmel 89.1 percent; Paramount School (Mayor charter) 87.5 percent; Hamilton Southeastern 86.6 percent; Franklin Township 86.5 percent and Avon 84.1 percent.

The districts and charters with the lowest passing rates in IREAD this year: Indianapolis Academy of Excellence (State charter) 27.3 percent; Hoosier Virtual (Ball State charter) 38.1 percent; Andrew J. Brown (Mayor charter) 38.5 percent; Imagine School (Trine charter) 40 percent; Andrew Academy (Mayor charter) 42.9 percent; IPS 48.9 percent; Indianapolis Lighthouse (Mayor charter) 60.5 percent; Decatur Township 63.6 percent; Indiana Math & Science South (Mayor charter) 65 percent and Vision Academy (Mayor charter) 66.7 percent.

Regarding the two Mayor charter schools with the poorest performance, Andrew Academy is closing next month. The poor IREAD results by Andrew J. Brown is a shocker as just two years ago they had one of the highest IREAD passing scores for Black students of any charter of school district in the area. The IREAD results could place the school under greater scrutiny by the Mayor’s Charter School Office.

Statewide for all Hoosier third graders, 84.2 percent passed IREAD. That’s down slightly from the 85.7 percent that passed IREAD the first time last year. The initial IREAD passing scores were 86.1 percent in 2013 and 85 percent in the test’s first year 2012.

This year, 68.5 percent of Indiana’s African-American students, 89.5 percent of whites and 74.2 percent of Hispanics pass IREAD first time this year. That’s a sharp decline from the 72.6 percent of African-American; 90.6 percent of whites and 77.4 percent of Hispanics that passed IREAD last year. In 2013, 70.3 percent of African-Americans; 90.6 percent of whites and 77.1 percent of Hispanics passed while in 2012, the figures were 68.1 percent of African-Americans, 89.4 percent of whites and 75.4 percent of Hispanics passed.

The IREAD preliminary data was released May 9 by the Indiana Department of Education. Students that didn’t pass are given an opportunity to retake IREAD before the end of the school year. Students that don’t pass then could be retained in the third grade an extra year.

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