LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Indiana students in third through eighth grades began taking iLearn assessments Monday, and one southern Indiana school corporation hopes to see scores improve as its students continue making up for lost classroom time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday marked the beginning of the iLearn testing window, which closes May 13. English and math scores on the latest round of state standardized testing in Indiana released last year dropped from 2018-19 results.

Indiana, like other states, received a federal waiver to cancel standardized testing for the 2019-20 school year that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Results from the 2020-21 school year showed 40.5% of Indiana students in third through eighth grade tested proficient in English and 36.9% tested proficient in math, down from iLearn proficiency rates of 47.9% and 47.8% in English and math, respectively, in the 2018-19 school year.

Karen Wesely, director of elementary education and testing coordinator at Greater Clark County Schools, said most of the corporation’s schools began iLearn exams Monday.

GCCS hopes to see scores improve over last year, Wesely said. Nearly 27% of GCCS students in third through eighth grades tested proficient in math and 35.6% reached that level in English, according to last year’s assessment results.

Those results declined from the 44.2% and 49.4% proficiency rates in math and English, respectively, at GCCS in the 2018-19 iLearn assessments.

Wesely believes the school corporation will need another school year, particularly with fewer learning disruptions caused by COVID-19, for students to “fully rebound” academically.

“It was pretty challenging for our teachers and our students trying to stay on top of the makeup work when they were quarantined due to COVID because they were either a close contact or they were sick themselves, and that really didn't slow down until about mid-February,” she said. “... It added a layer of stress and made it hard for teachers and students to make sure that they were keeping up with their classmates. It's hard when you're not there.”

Standardized testing brings some stress to schools, so Wesely says school staff have incorporated ways to help students cope with any test-related nervousness that students may experience.

“Some of them are having some fun dress-up days,” Wesely said. “Some do a little morning meeting before they go into their testing session just to shake off nerves and let them process with each other. Others just try to remind the students that they need to do their best. They are more than a test score, but we want them to put their best foot forward in everything they do and prove what they know.”

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