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Understanding State Test Results

With recent media coverage and questions about state testing, it’s important for our community to understand the changes in standardized testing and how to properly interpret the data. Test scores are one component to measuring a district’s success. However, without an understanding of the test and scores, it’s easy to misconstrue the results.

In 2019, Carmel Clay Schools along with most districts in Indiana switched from the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) standardized test to the Indiana Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN). The change from ISTEP to ILEARN nullifies any linear comparison of student or districtwide data that includes scores from before and after 2019. 

Some may try to use ISTEP and ILEARN synonymously to qualify the success of a school district, however, they are completely different assessments and cannot be compared. 


ILEARN is a computer adaptive test, similar to NWEA MAP. A computer adaptive test presents a student questions with varying difficulty levels based on how the student answered the previous question. ISTEP was not a computer adaptive test. ILEARN assesses all Indiana Academic Standards, including content literacy and media literacy, on the ELA assessments and process standards on the math assessments. ISTEP did not assess the same standards. 


All Carmel Clay students moved to virtual learning in the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year.  During 2020-21, students participated in various educational platforms, including in-person, hybrid, and virtual. In addition, during the 2020-21 school year, 7,816 students were quarantined due to possible exposure to COVID, resulting in a total of 55,580 days of quarantine. The two school years between the 2019 administration of ILEARN and the 2021 administration of ILEARN were filled with challenges and not typical for our students.


Just like when our students apply for college, we do not want to qualify success in narrow terms. It’s important to take a holistic view of a students’ academic journey including SAT scores, grade point averages, classes, diploma tracks, AP participation, electives, extracurriculars, and more! The same goes for district performance. While ILEARN scores provide important data to use for year-after-year comparisons, they should not be the sole determinant in analyzing the success of a school system. Districts must incorporate individuals’ and schools’ NWEA scores, IREAD and WIDA results, graduation rates, rigorous course offerings, and expanded learning opportunities for all students.  


The transition from ISTEP to ILEARN, along with the effects of the pandemic, produced low test scores across the state. It is helpful and insightful to analyze the data compared to others in similarly sized districts and statewide. 

From the 2016-17 to 2020-21 school years, including both ISTEP and ILEARN, Carmel Clay Schools ranked 1st in the state with students passing compared to similar size districts. In all grade levels, for the same years, Carmel Clay Schools never ranked lower than 4th compared to all 407 districts statewide. 

Specifically looking at ILEARN passing scores for all grades, both ELA and Math, Carmel Clay Schools ranked 2nd in the state and was 27.2% higher than the state average.

Please visit the Indiana Department of Education for more about ILEARN, and to view CCS district performance information.

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