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Reading scores jump at some Indianapolis Public Schools, while others flounder

Dylan Peers McCoy

Indianapolis Public Schools posted higher scores on the state’s third-grade reading test this year — but the gains were not universal. Several of the district’s most struggling schools actually saw their scores fall, an IPS official announced last week.

Districtwide, 72.5 percent of third-graders passed the IREAD exam so far this year, up 6 percentage points over 2015, according Deputy Superintendent Wanda Legrand, who presented the preliminary scores at an IPS school board meeting.

“We are trending high this year,” said Legrand.

Many schools made double-digit gains. When educators at School 56 noticed this year that test scores were lagging, they decided to redouble their focus on a big issue — how well students understand what they read.

“We’ve been working really hard,” principal Christine Rembert told Chalkbeat in April when discussing the precipitous decline in ISTEP scores at the school in 2015.

When the district received its IREAD scores, School 56 was one of two IPS schools where 100 percent of students passed.

The 37-point increase was an impressive feat for the Montessori magnet school, whose students are mostly poor. The only other school with a perfect pass rate was Merle Sidener Gifted Academy, which screens students by academic ability.

Other schools that saw big gains between 2015 and 2016 include:

  • School 83 — from 40.8 percent to 83.3 percent
  • School 69 — from 31 percent to 56 percent
  • School 96 — from 53.3 percent to 76.8 percent
  • School 54 — from 33.7 percent to 56.6 percent
  • School 19 — from 66 percent to 88.4 percent
  • School 107 — from 55 percent to 76.7 percent
  • Phalen Leadership Academy at School 103 — from 29.8 percent to 61.2 percent

But not all schools saw their scores rise so much. At transformation zone schools — low-performing schools that are receiving special attention and resources from the district — pass rates actually declined by about 5 percentage points, to 63.5 percent. Legrand said one problem at those schools was that some teaching positions were vacant.

The scores are preliminary and the district pass rate is expected to improve because students who have not passed the test may retake it during the summer. Although exceptions apply, students who don’t pass the retest are often held back in third grade.

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