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September 5, 2013

Test results show 'achievement gap' for at-risk students

INDIANAPOLIS – More Indiana third graders are passing the state’s reading proficiency test, but students who live in poverty or don’t speak English as their native language are failing the test at a higher rate than their counterparts.

Final results of the state’s IREAD-3 test, released Wednesday, also show a racial disparity: Just over 94 percent of white students passed the test, while only 81.5 percent of black students did. Just over 85 percent of Hispanic students passed the test.

The numbers released Wednesday also reflect a rise in test scores for those students who received intensive remediation over the summer after failing the IREAD-3 the first time they took it in the spring. Overall, 86.1 percent of Indiana third-graders passed IREAD-3 last spring; after the test was re-administered in the summer to students who’d received the extra help, the final overall pass rate went up to 91.4 percent.

When the test was administered in 2012 – the first year for the test – just over 90 percent of third-graders passed, including students who had to re-take the test.

The Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment, known as IREAD-3, is given to third-graders in March. Part of Indiana’s sweeping education reform efforts, it’s aimed at identifying students who need intensive help before they can move on to fourth grade.

The state’s test results were released by the Indiana Department of Education, with a brief statement from Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who’s been a sharp critic of the IREAD-3 test.

In it, the Democrat Ritz thanked “the many educators and families who are making reading proficiency a priority throughout Indiana.” But she made no mention of her so-far unsuccessful efforts to eliminate the test, which was introduced by her predecessor, Republican Tony Bennett.

Ritz briefly mentioned the IREAD-3 results during a meeting of the Indiana State Board of Education Wednesday. The board has rebuffed efforts by Ritz to institute other reading measures that she’s argued would give teachers better information about an individual student’s progress in reading proficiency. During the meeting, the board also unanimously approved a resolution hiring its own executive director and staff – a measure that Ritz opposed.

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