Some school board candidates insist that academic performance in CCS is in decline, despite a plethora of data indicating otherwise. They base this solely on ILEARN scores for the past 3 years. So we decided to look closer at that data, and what we saw will explain a lot of where we are and what challenges lie ahead.
The graph shows the combined reading /math scores for ILEARN the 3 years the test has been given. And yes, our performance fell between 2019 and 2021. Does anyone happen to recall what occurred between those times? Something called the pandemic. But our fall off was less than seen statewide, and no schools in the CCS system fell below the state average. We are actually seeing recovery already from 2021 to 2022. And none of our schools ever fell below state average. Even the lowest CCS school was over 10 percentage points above the state average. So does this one year drop off mean our schools are failing academically? No. It means we went through a rough 1-year patch, just like schools and students did across the country, but most of our schools weathered the storm and continue to do very well respectively. Overall CCS was a top 4 school the first year of ILEARN and has improved to being a top 3 school for 2021 and 2022.
The data also show that certain schools perform worse than others, so we started to look at factors that might cause that. And we chose one variable for which the IDOE keeps data: percent of students that receive free lunch. This statistic is often used as an indicator to differentiate socioeconomic status and disadvantages as students’ families must meet certain criteria to qualify (less than or equal to 130-185% of federal poverty limits, receiving SNAP or TANF, foster children, homeless, and more…). Looking at the 2022 data, schools with a higher percentage of free/reduced lunch students did not perform as well overall. The average score for schools that have a higher-than-average percentage is 53.94% at proficiency compared to 70.55% for schools that have a below average percentage of students receiving free lunch. While this is not a perfect substitute for more in-depth analysis of the demographic variables related to performance, it does provide some insight.
What can we take from this data?
- First, the pandemic apparently had a big impact on test performance in CCS and across Indiana. Some running for the school board refuse to acknowledge this fact; however, it doesn’t change the fact that the pandemic happened and it affected the results of test scores throughout Indiana and the United States.
- Second, based on the differences between schools and between free/reduced and paid lunch students, it is clear there are some specific schools and students that need more attention. A review of individual school improvement plans and district improvement plans reveals that initiatives are underway to do just that.
- Third, these schools and individual students with more difficult circumstances may benefit from initiatives such as SEL and DEI to ensure they have the best opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, those same candidates who claim an overall declining academic performance also criticize SEL and DEI, despite the extensive evidence showing that these programs improve academic performance.
Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to uncover the facts about academic performance. We should expect our school board members to do just that.
*Michael Gambrel, DHA and Jeff Boldt, Ph.D. are parents of current and former CCS students who believe strongly that CCS provide excellent education to the students of our city. Michael holds an MBA and Doctorate in Healthcare Administration, works as a Director of Business Analytics, and is on faculty at Ball State University and Franklin University. Jeff has his Ph.D.in Anatomy with a 40-year career in clinical and basic research. We love to play with numbers, but more importantly, we love to make sure others understand the numbers!