Exam results offer promise

HANCOCK COUNTY — About half of the students across the county who retook the high-stakes IREAD-3 exam this summer passed the test, boosting the countywide average to more than 96 percent.

Of the nearly 900 students from the county’s four school districts who took the exam in the spring, more than 92 percent passed, leaving 68 to retake it this summer. Thirty-four of those students passed the exam after receiving remediation in the spring, and 33 will move on to fourth grade. Most of the students who didn’t pass were waived to fourth grade because they have special education needs, and administrators felt they are progressing at an acceptable rate.

The state-mandated assessment is given to all third-grade students in the spring and determines whether their reading skills are proficient to move on to fourth grade.

This year’s results are similar to those from previous years. In 2014, 94 percent of third-graders passed in the spring, and about half of the 52 who retook the test in the summer passed, leaving nine to repeat third grade. In 2013, three students were retained to third grade as a result of the assessment.

Greenfield-Central associate superintendent Ann Vail said she’s pleased with her district’s final results — 10 of the 22 students who retook the exam passed, and none will be retained to third grade.

Still, the district is constantly looking for ways to improve those figures, she said.

“We really want to serve each student to the very best of our ability,” she said. “While our numbers do reflect that our teachers across the corporation are using the core reading program effectively, we’re always looking at how we can work to refine our interventions, so those students who need a little extra practice can gain those skills.”

Mt. Vernon School Corp. assistant superintendent Mike Horton said he, too, is satisfied with his district’s performance. Of the 19 students who retook the test earlier this summer, 12 passed, and six will be granted exemptions and move on in accordance with the district’s policy.

Horton said sometimes retention is necessary for a student’s long-term well-being. He added that many of the district’s students who drop out in high school weren’t reading at grade level in earlier years.

“Our thought is it’s better for the students to regroup by repeating third grade,” he said.

At Eastern Hancock Elementary School, seven of the school’s 88 third-graders retook the exam, and two passed. None of the district’s third-graders will be retained as a result of the test.

Amanda Pyle, principal at Eastern Hancock Elementary, said the numbers are in line with what the district has seen in past years.

Though Pyle said she thinks IREAD-3 is a fair assessment, she doesn’t feel that the test tells the district anything its teachers don’t already know.

“We know our kids, and we’re constantly assessing them on a daily basis,” she said. “For a building our size, I don’t know if IREAD-3 is absolutely necessary.”

Southern Hancock School Corp. had 16 of the district’s 231 third-graders retake the test, 10 of whom passed. None of those who didn’t pass again will be retained, as all of them have special education plans.

The district has never retained a student to third grade as a result of the assessment, said Rhonda Peterson, curriculum director.

She credits the district’s remediation program, which begins as soon as the district has identified those who didn’t pass the exam in the spring and targets each student’s needs individually.

“We think it’s phenomenal that we’ve never had to retain anyone,” Peterson said.

She said retaining a student at third grade is far from ideal, and students are much better served if they repeat preschool or kindergarten.

“By the time students reach third grade, they’re learning at a more rapid rate,” Peterson said. “By third grade, the gap widens, and it takes significantly more remediation time for kiddos to get caught up.”

The Indiana Department of Education hasn’t yet released results for statewide averages after factoring in the retests.

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.