State releases results for End-of-Course Assessments

The Indiana Department of Education released scores last week for the first round of End-of-Course Assessments, marking a transition from one regime of high-stakes testing to another.

Passing rates for Monroe County school districts were at or above the state average. Still, from one-third to more than one-half of local students didn’t pass the tests the first time around.

The ECAs replace the Graduation Qualifying Exam, which will be given for the last time in the spring of 2011 to this year’s high-school seniors. Starting with the Class of 2012, students will be expected to pass the ECA for Algebra I and English 10 to graduate.

A third End-of-Course Assessment, for Biology I, fulfills a federal requirement for assessing students’ progress in science but isn’t required for graduation.

Because the spring of 2010 was the first time the ECAs were given, it’s hard to know just what to make of the scores. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said they create a baseline for future comparisons, much like the ISTEP-Plus exams given in the spring for the first time in 2009.

“The ECAs are critical tools to help predict student success following high school,” Bennett said in a DOE news release. “To successfully compete in the 21st century economy, students must master these subjects which serve as a foundation of college and career readiness.”

Statewide, passing rates were 61 percent for Algebra I, 63 percent for English 10 and 37 percent for Biology I. Those numbers don’t sound so great, and indeed Wes Bruce, the state DOE’s chief assessment officer, told the Indianapolis Star that they are “not where we want them to be.”

District by district, the scores were all over the map. For the most part, wealthy suburban districts tended to have high passing rates; some poor urban and rural districts had distressingly low passing rates. In Monroe County, the rates were:

— Monroe County Community School Corp., 67 percent for Algebra I, 65 percent for English 10, 44 percent for Biology I.
— Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp., 68 percent for Algebra I, 61 percent for English 10, 37 percent for Biology I.

Students, parents and schools received individual results in September, the Department of Education says. Students who didn’t pass are entitled to extra help and instructional time.

One thing that’s striking about the data is that, in many districts, virtually all the students who took Algebra I in middle school passed the ECAs. What does that mean? We’ll take a look in a later post.

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