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Terry Spradlin
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2005

Hoosier students falling through the cracks

Indiana University report cites alarming achievement gaps among K-12 students

Sept. 19, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- On the surface, Indiana schools can boast progress in a variety of important areas, including graduation rates, SAT and ACT scores and performances on the state's standardized achievement test, ISTEP. A closer look reveals alarming achievement gaps between the state's white and non-white students and between its poorest and wealthier students. Even more troublesome, the gaps get larger the longer these students remain in school.

Researchers at Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy today (Sept. 19) issued a challenge to a broad array of stakeholders to address this problem. While releasing a comprehensive special report about Indiana's achievement gaps, they called on state and local education leaders, legislators, business and industry, labor, clergy, parents and others to take concrete steps to help reduce and eliminate these disparities in academic achievement. Several of the report's recommendations speak specifically to the governor and Indiana's Education Roundtable, which will meet on Sept. 28.

"The good news is that Indiana's K-12 education system effectively serves a majority of our students. The bad news is that a significant number of minority and low income Hoosier students are not succeeding in their classrooms and are falling through the cracks. Addressing this problem must be the state's top education priority," said Terry Spradlin, associate director of CEEP. "While the state builds on its recent academic success and its broad K-12 reform initiatives, our leaders must act immediately in a targeted and cohesive manner to not only meet the federal accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind, but to ensure that another generation of children is not destined to fail."

CEEP's special report, "Is the Achievement Gap in Indiana Narrowing?" offers the most complete picture of Indiana's achievement gap since a state review in 2003. Using a variety of measures, CEEP researchers examined achievement gaps involving students' race/ethnicity, income, English proficiency and special education needs. The report can be viewed at

The key findings of the report include:

  • ISTEP results over the last seven years for grades 3, 6, 8 and 10 demonstrate modest improvements for most subgroups, yet the achievement gaps have narrowed only slightly and remain quite large.
  • When the percentage of students passing both the mathematics and English/language arts on ISTEP is examined, the achievement gaps in the 2004-05 school year widen from the elementary to the secondary grade levels. The gap between white and African American students in grade 3 was 25 percentage points, compared to 38 percentage points in grade 10; the gap between white and Hispanic students in grade 3 was 22 percentage points, compared to 30 percentage points in grade 10; the gap between students receiving free or reduced-price meals and students who paid full price in grade 3 was 24 percentage points, compared to a gap of 30 percentage points in grade 10; the gap between limited English-proficient (LEP) and non-LEP students in grade 3 was 25 percentage points, compared to 34 percentage points in grade 10; and the gap between special education students and general education students in grade 3 was 33 percentage points, compared to 50 percentage points in grade 10.
  • Hispanic and African American students are under-represented in participation on AP tests and complete the core 40 or academic honors diploma at a significantly lower rate, an indication that these students are being tracked into lower-level courses.

CEEP's observations and recommendations include the following:

  • The achievement gaps have narrowed only marginally since the state embarked on a series of comprehensive school reform initiatives beginning in the late 1980s, including revisions to the school funding formula that resulted in increased spending on education.
  • State and local leaders must acknowledge and address the impact of such issues as high mobility rates, increasing levels of poverty, poor nutrition, and limited access to quality health care on student achievement. Effective economic development, fiscal management and public health policies will help reduce the achievement gaps.
  • The governor and policymakers should not disregard or abandon successful reform efforts. The governor should work with the state superintendent, the Indiana State Board of Education, Indiana's Education Roundtable, and the Indiana General Assembly to immediately formulate strategic and cohesive education policies to address the achievement gaps. Measurable goals in closing the achievement gap must be identified.
  • The Education Roundtable should review the P-16 Plan for Improving Student Achievement, itemize accomplishments, and make a renewed commitment to pursue and fulfill its recommendations and the recommendations in the CEEP report.
  • State leaders should find the funding to support full-day kindergarten programs in the schools with the widest achievement gaps for at-risk students.
  • State and local education leaders should expand effective reading programs to all elementary classes. Students who are not on grade level for reading at grade 3 should have access to and participate in intensive intervention and remediation programs. If students remain below grade level for reading after the intervention, they should be considered for retention.
  • By the end of grade 8, minority and low-income students lag behind their peers by three grade levels. The report urges further examination of suspension and expulsion policies in middle schools as well as an assessment of middle school student engagement.Indiana's academic standards need to apply to all students.
  • Hoosier teachers must avoid tracking groups of students into lower-level courses and should place high expectations on all students in every grade level.

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to

Terry Spradlin can be reached at 812-855-4438 and