INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Private Indiana schools that accepted students from low-
to middle-income families using state-funded vouchers last year experienced
a fall in their passing rates on the state’s ISTEP test this year, a
newspaper’s analysis of test scores shows.
The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne analyzed the test scores of 189 private
schools with voucher students that administered the statewide test and had
2011 data for comparison. The newspaper reported Monday that its analysis
showed those schools’ passing rate for both math and English fell to 85
percent this year, down from 86 percent the year before.
At the same time, the state’s public schools’ scores rose slightly, with
about 71 percent of students passing both the English and math portions of
the test this year, up from about 70 percent last year. Those scores mark an
8 percent gain since the 2008-09 school year.
In 2011, Indiana lawmakers approved the nation’s broadest voucher program
for low-to-moderate income families. The program, which nearly 4,000
students took advantage of in the 2011-12 school year, allows parents to
send their children to private schools using state funding.
School Choice Indiana executive director Lindsey Brown said the group, which
supports the voucher law, “fully expected” that some private schools taking
on new students would see slight drops in their scores. “When a school takes
on a large number of new students that’s certainly going to impact its
scores,” she said. Brown said other choice programs nationwide have shown an
initial negative impact before test results grow again.
The Indiana Department of Education has not yet run an aggregate calculation
showing how many voucher students passed the test.
But Brown said voucher schools overall performed better than public schools.
Specifically, she said 38 percent of voucher schools — or 86 schools —
reached the 90 percent pass rate in both subjects, which the state
Department of Education set as a goal for every school.
Still, some drops in passing rates at individual private schools were quite
For instance, the Ambassador Christian Academy in Gary accepted 110 voucher
students at the beginning of the school year. In 2011, 78 percent of the
academy’s students passed both the math and English portions of the test.
That rate dropped to 57 percent this year.
At Blackhawk Christian Jr.-Sr. High in Fort Wayne, 91 percent of students
pass the math and English portions last year and 83 percent this year. The
school’s lead administrator, Bill Hartman, said he wasn’t shocked at all to
see an overall statewide reduction for voucher schools.
“I think there is no question as you broaden the student population your
test scores are not going to be as high,” he said. “The more you pull the
public into the private we will see that.”
But he cautioned against blaming the influx of voucher students, saying the
majority of Blackhawk’s voucher students were in elementary grades.