The state Education Department reported more than 71 percent of Indiana students passed math and English portions of the ISTEP-Plus exams this year.
That reflects a modest increase of 1 percent over scores last year in the standardized test for students in grades 3 through 8.
Northwest Indiana mimicked the state rates, though some dips were attributed to socioeconomic achievement gaps.
Highland Superintendent Mike Boskovich said his district performed about the same as last year.
"I was happy to see the state showed us results dating back to 2005," Boskovich said. "We didn't make any improvements from last year. We're not going to make any excuses. We changed out some programs. For example, we started a new math program at the elementary level, and our math scores are solid. We went down slightly at the middle school level."
At Lead College Preparatory School in Gary, there was a slight increase in English/language arts scores compared to last year but student scores decreased sharply in math. The percentage of students passing the math exam in 2012 was 25.1 percent compared with 51.8 percent in 2011.
Lori Pavell, principal at Hebron Middle School, said the school had increases across the board for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
"Our sixth-grade team did a fabulous job," she said. We just had four or five kids at the sixth-grade level who didn't pass. I'm pleased with the slight increase. We changed some things around this year. We also looked at our data and our strengths and weaknesses. We still have a ways to go and we'll keep plugging ahead."
Portage Superintendent Ric Frataccia said he is delighted with the performance of schools in Portage.
"The teachers are deploying best practices in even greater fashion from year to year," Frataccia said. "Our parents in the community are on board and we're moving forward."
Frataccia also said it's tough to stay on top.
"We say to our educational leaders that getting to the mid-80s and 90s percentile is great, and going even higher will be equally difficult. Teachers and students have to put forth maximum effort at all times," he said.
The goal of ISTEP-Plus is to measure how well students perform and comprehend the skills and content outlined in Indiana’s Academic Standards. Like last year’s test, the 2011 version of ISTEP-Plus included open-ended and multiple-choice questions in English/language arts and mathematics at each tested grade level as well as science for grades four and six and social studies for grades five and seven. The test was administered this year in two testing windows; students took the open-ended portion March 5 through 14 and the multiple choice section April 30 through May 9.
For low-performing schools, the test is especially important because it is used to determine which schools are taken over by the state. Last year, seven schools were taken over by the state, including Gary Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy.
Roosevelt posted dismal scores for the 2012 year with 10.4 percent of all students in seventh- and eighth-grade who took ISTEP-Plus passing the English/language arts and math portions of the test.