ISTEP+ standardized test scores were a hot topic before and during the East Allen County Schools board meeting Tuesday.
Just before the meeting, Fort Wayne/Allen County NAACP President Paulette Nellems and a small group of community members gathered outside the district's administration building to protest the district's performance on the state standardized test.
EACS achieved a 66 percent combined passage rate, a number unchanged from the previous year. A look at specific student populations, such as low-income and English Language Learners show scores that decreased from the prior year.
Some gathered Tuesday night held signs that read "unacceptable."
"I heard about (the scores) at church on Sunday, and I was blown away," said Mary Dixon, a Harding-area resident. "They closed schools and we thought things would be better, but they got worse."
Nellems read a statement from the local chapter of the NAACP that encouraged EACS parents to explore other educational options and called the passage rates of EACS low-income and minority students shameful.
"The changes in EACS district have provided no gains for students in the Paul Harding attendance area," she said to the board.
Nellems statement sparked reaction from audience members, some of whom also came forward to speak, incuding Prince Chapman Academy principal Thelma Green.
"We are attempting to provide the best education for these kids," she said, addressing the board and the audience. "When we talk about what people do. I work 18-hour days. We are trying."
Tears began to roll down Green's cheeks as she spoke of the hard work of her teachers and students as well as the challenges of teaching students not prepared to learn.
"My kids showed a year's growth, but one year wasn't enough," she said.
During EACS Superintendent Karyle Green's time for remarks, she said the district had no indication throughout the year scores "would be under what we thought."
She said the data on student growth isn't available yet.
"It's really a bit early to be disappointed," she said to the board. "When we have data we can actually bring back to you, we will present it."
Sherry and Isaac Fincher hope that at some point the district will offer an explanation for why low-income and minority students' scores declined.
"One core area of students is not progressing," Sherry said.
One of the couple's children attended Harding, but left the district to attend Fort Wayne Community Schools when EACS closed Harding as a high school.
Sherry said they'd like to send their younger-aged children to East Allen schools, as it is the district they live in, but don't because of the low achievement of Harding-area schools.