INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's relentless push to improve the standardized test scores of its schoolchildren seems to be paying off: The state is reporting another year of record-breaking scores.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said 71 percent of the nearly 500,000 students who took the ISTEP+ test in the spring passed both the math and English/language portions of the test.
That's a gain of one percentage point over last year and 8 percentage points since the 2008-09 school year. It's also the third successive year that students' passing rates have gone up on every portion of the test, which is administered to students in grades 3 to 8.
The 71 percent mark falls far short of the goal of a 90 percent pass rate that Bennett has been pushing for since he took office in 2005, but it didn't seem to dampen his enthusiasm.
"Hoosiers from all walks of life should greet this news with a standing ovation," Bennett said in a statement accompanying the release of the test scores. "More students are getting a world class education in our schools."
Bennett credited "Indiana's great teachers" for educating "a new generation of leaders and innovators who will build a more prosperous future for our state."
Those teachers are watching the test scores with some wariness. Under a "merit pay" law passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2010, the test scores of their students now play a role in how those teachers are evaluated and paid.
The ISTEP test scores are also a critical component of the Indiana Department of Education's accountability model, which assigns schools and school districts grades of A through F.
Scores matter, but under the "growth model" used to evaluate both teacher pay and school grades, progress does, too. As critical as the the number of students who pass ISTEP is whether scores are improving from year to year.