In Jackson County, 81 percent of third-graders passed the state’s reading proficiency test this spring.
But that leaves 108 of 468 students countywide who did not pass the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment, or IREAD-3. Preliminary results from the test were released by the Indiana Department of Education on May 8.
The state average passing rate was 84.2 percent, a drop of just more than 1 percentage point from 2014.
IREAD-3 is an online test focused solely on reading and evaluates third-graders on their phonics and comprehension skills.
Cortland Elementary School had the highest percentage of students passing among the county’s public schools, 93.5 percent (29 of 31 students). It was a gain of 4 percentage points from the school’s rate last year.
The results are just the latest good news for Cortland, which recently received the state’s Four Star designation for its performance on the ISTEP+ exam, which tests students on English/language arts and math. Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour also received the Four Star award.
Following Cortland’s IREAD-3 performance was Crothersville Elementary School, which had a 91.7 percent rate (33 of 36 students). The school increased its pass rate by 4.2 percentage points from last year.
Seymour Community Schools had the lowest passing rate overall at 72.4 percent (254 of 328 students), according to the state.
Lisa Ferguson, director of curriculum, said that of the students who didn’t pass, 32 received a “good cause” exemption from the state. Exemptions are available to students who have been held back a grade two times already, special needs students with individual education plans and English language learners.
All 74 Seymour students who did not pass will be invited to attend summer school at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School for remediation, Ferguson said.
All elementary schools in the Seymour district except Cortland had lower passing rates this year — Seymour-Jackson, 72.7 percent (72 of 99), down 1.6 points; Margaret R. Brown, 72.8 percent (59 of 81), down nearly 4 points; Seymour-Redding, 75.8 percent (50 of 66), down 3.4 points; and Emerson, 86.3 percent (44 of 51), down .4 point.
Both Seymour-Jackson and Margaret R. Brown have high poverty rates and large populations of English language learners, groups that often are at-risk of falling behind their peers and traditionally don’t perform as well on standardized tests.
Many of the students who failed the test the first time will and pass the retest this summer after participating in remediation efforts, school officials said. Those who do not pass the test the second time and who do not qualify for a “good cause” exemption, will not move on to fourth-grade reading lessons in the fall.
Crothersville Elementary School Principal Chris Marshall said one of the three students there who did not pass IREAD-3 this year will receive an exemption. The other two will take the test again next month.
He credits the school’s success and improvement to third-grade teacher Maddie DiBlasi.
“She provides enriching and engaging instruction and assessment in her classroom everyday,” Marshall said.
DiBlasi gives one-on-one instruction to those students who didn’t pass the test and reviews the IREAD-3 scores to determine areas students need remediation, he added.
At Brownstown Elementary School, 109 of 125 students (87.2 percent) passed the test, which is just a slight increase from the 86.8 percent who passed last year, according to the state.
Of the 16 students who didn’t pass, half will receive an exemption, Principal Tom McCool said. The others will attend summer school from 8 a.m. to noon for five days a week beginning right after school ends for the year. They will retake the test June 25, McCool said.
“For the most part, kids do very well the second time around, because they know what to expect,” McCool said.
McCool said he doesn’t worry that students won’t pass because he has confidence in his teachers and what they are teaching.
“We’ve got a solid curriculum and very good teachers,” he said. “Students are building on a foundation of instruction from kindergarten all the way to third grade. Teachers understand what students need to know to be good readers, and they teach that every day.”
By the time students reach third grade, teachers have identified students who are having trouble with reading and work with them to improve before they take the IREAD-3 test.
“We try to get interventions going early to help them,” McCool said.
There are other factors that might lead to a student failing the test that have nothing to do with their reading ability, McCool added.
“Some just aren’t good test-takers, or maybe they were having a bad day the day they took the test,” he said. “But we will do whatever we have to do to make them better readers.”
At Medora Elementary School, 73.3 percent (11 of 15 students) passed, according to the state, a 5 percentage point drop from last year’s rate. But one student ended up scoring 100 percent in each of the three categories on the test, Principal Chrystal Street said.
None of the students who failed qualify for an exemption. Street said the school will provide remediation to those students, focusing on reading comprehension, mainly for nonfiction and informational text.
Street anticipates remediation efforts during the summer will be enough to help students move on to the next grade.
“Next year, we will continue to monitor those students who struggled the first time to ensure that they continue to make progress,” she said.
Local parochial schools that are accredited by the state also participate in the IREAD-3.
For the third year in a row, all St. Ambrose Catholic School third-graders passed the test.
At Immanuel Lutheran School, 84.2 percent (32 of 38 students) passed, a drop of 6.9 percentage points from last year’s rate.
At Lutheran Central School in Brownstown, 72.7 percent (eight of 11 students) passed, a drop of 5.9 percentage points.
At Seymour Christian Academy, 80 percent (eight of 10 students) passed. This was the first year the test was given at the school.