ExcelinEd Urges Indiana to be Honest, Raise Expectations for Students


Indiana's State Board of Education (SBOE) has an opportunity at the October 14 meeting to take a step forward in aligning cut scores on their state assessment, the ISTEP+, with real-world expectations for college and career readiness.

Every state draws a line – also called the proficiency cut score – on their annual assessment to determine if a student is proficient in the subject. This proficiency cut score varies state-by-state. In Indiana, the proposed cut scores show a reduction in passage rates of 16 percent for English Language Arts and 24 percent for math. This does not mean that Indiana's teachers have become less skilled, or that Indiana students have become less intelligent. It does mean that Indiana policymakers have raised the bar so that students graduate with the skills necessary to compete in a 21st century economy.

"We strongly encourage the Indiana State Board of Education to adopt more rigorous passing scores at a level that reflects true, in-depth knowledge of the subjects. These are not easy decisions but necessary ones to ensure the future success of our children," Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. "Much work remains for Indiana's leaders. Their decision on setting scores is neither the start nor the end of the effort required to increase expectations for students. We believe Hoosier students and educators will rise to the challenge. We encourage State Board of Education members to maintain the focus on results and resist calls to pause or weaken the transparency of Indiana's A-F school grading system.

The respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is considered the gold standard for measuring student proficiency. The difference between NAEP and individual states' proficiency expectations are wide and varied. This discrepancy is called a "proficiency gap."

Looking at results from 2013, Indiana's state-administered tests indicated that 84 percent of fourth-grade students were proficient readers. However, NAEP results from that year found only 38 percent of fourth graders had achieved reading proficiency. In other words, 47 percent of Indiana's fourth graders thought they had the reading skills needed to be on track toward college and career readiness when, in fact, they did not.

Simply put, in the past and like many other states, Indiana has set its proficiency expectation too low. This conveys a false sense of student readiness for college and career to parents, teachers and students. And it comes with consequences:

  • Indiana students seeking a four-year bachelor's degree lose more than $68,000 each additional year they don't graduate on time. ($22,800 in cost of attendance and $45,300 in lost wages.)
  • According to 2014 ACT results, just 52 percent of Indiana graduates were prepared to do college-level math.
  • More than 13 percent of the Indiana high school graduates that take the United States Army's Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) are found ineligible.
  • In 2014, Indiana's unemployment rate was 6.0 percent.

Visit WhyProficiencyMatters.com/Indiana for more facts, graphics and sharable content. Join the conversation online with the hashtag #ProficiencyMatters.


  • Complete College America, Four Year Myth, 2014.
  • 2014 ACT National and State Scores, Average Scores by State
  • The Education Trust, Shut of the Military, December 2010
  • U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Unemployment (Annual) News Release)

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Source:Foundation for Excellencein Education