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ILearn results for students in Gary are hard to take

ILearn results for students in Gary are hard to take. By the numbers, only 203 of the 3,845 students passed.

ILearn is the yearly test of Indiana’s students in grades 3-8 for proficiencies in English Language Arts, math, science, and social studies. ELA (reading and writing) and math are the main evaluation criteria. The 2023 ILearn results released by the Indiana Dept. of Education on July 14 represent students in all of Indiana’s school districts – public, private, religious, charters and virtual.

Gary has all of those school districts inside its city limits. Results for the Gary Community School Corporation, the public school district and largest of them all, show only 38 of the 1,705 students in grades 3-8 passed both English Language Arts and math. Students in GCSC’s 5 elementary schools and 2 middle schools were tested.

Because GCSC is the largest, poor ILearn results in the other districts fly below the radar.

Except for Aspire Charter Academy, none of the religious, private or charter schools in Gary reached 10 percent of their students passing. At Aspire, 61 of its 426 students passed both ELA and Math.

At 21st Century Charter, 24 of 548 students passed both ELA and math.

Ambassador Academy had only 6 of 97 passing.

Charter School of the Dunes had only 19 of 144 passing.

Lighthouse Charter had only 32 of 460 passing.

Steel City Academy had only 5 of 117 passing.

Thea Bowman had only 18 of 348 passing.

GCSC has tried to improve outcomes. The school year 2022-23 was the second year of GCSC adding an hour to its instruction day. In January, it started an after school tutoring program for grades 3-8, open to students who wanted to attend.

Stipends were offered to teachers to use small group instruction in their classrooms. This strategy allows teachers to offer instructions based on students’ levels of proficiency, instead of teaching to the whole class. It is becoming a proven practice; seen as a way to increase learning and student participation in the classroom.

Under state takeover since 2017, the district’s state appointed manager – MGT Consulting Group –added an academics leader to its team in November 2022.

MGT vice president Eric Parrish said the academic leader, Andre Wright, “… will ensure that GCSC has ample capacity to invest heavily in academics over the next two years. And it will enable Dr. McNulty to focus on solidifying the operational and financial accomplishments achieved during the last five years.”

McNulty and Wright are no longer with the district. Mavis Snelson, MGT’s new deputy district manager said results show there are improvements. “The recently released ILEARN scores show overall growth for Gary students in both ELA and math, although average proficiency remains low. In ELA, proficiency for GCSC increased by 1.66 percentage points.”

“Math scores also increased districtwide this year, but it’s still true that far too few of our students are performing at a proficient level. To address these gaps, elementary teachers will engage in professional development focused on research-based practices for math instruction,” Snelson said. ”Teachers will receive training and support throughout the year to help them provide targeted, small group instruction to fill the gaps in their knowledge and skills, many of which can be attributed to disrupted learning during COVID-19.”

Indiana’s Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner noted in her analysis of state results, “Students who were not proficient in ELA and math prior to the pandemic were not recovering at the same rate as their peers.”

Michael Suggs, president of the newly appointed Gary Schools Advisory Board said the board has been paying attention to ILearn results and will address the results at the next public monthly meeting with Michael Raisor, the district’s new manager who replaced Paige McNulty.

ILearn results for 2023 can be accessed on the Indiana Dept. of Education website, to download to your computer.

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