bragging rights

These 10 Indianapolis schools have the most kids passing the 2016 ISTEP test

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
Students at Sidener Academy in Indianapolis Public Schools read or do homework in the At Your School after-school program.

Find our all our stories and databases on the 2016 ISTEP test results, as well as other testing coverage, here.

The annual release of state test scores this morning contained disappointing news for Marion County public school students and educators — but there’s still plenty of schools that can claim the bragging rights that come from outperforming their peers.

The Marion County public schools that posted the highest scores on this year’s ISTEP are largely traditional public schools — not charter schools — that serve fairly affluent students and tend to have more white students than minorities.

This is not surprising — in Indianapolis and across the country, wealthier white schools typically to do better on state exams. In some cases that’s because those schools have more resources, experienced teachers and less teacher turnover. There’s also research that shows standardized tests favor white, middle class kids.

But even many of these top-performing schools posted scores that were slightly lower than last year, when scores dropped considerably because of a major test change that stemmed from new, more challenging state standards in 2014.

Here’s a look at the public schools with the top 10 highest ISTEP passing rates in Marion County. For context, the racial makeup of students in the county is fairly balanced, with white and black students each making up a little more than one third of kids and the last third a mix of children from Hispanic, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds.

These 10 Marion County public schools had the highest passing rates:

Merle Sidener Gifted Academy. This Indianapolis Public Schools magnet for high ability students had 89.8 percent of its kids pass English and math tests.

Demographics:

  • 48 percent white, 26.5 percent black, 12.3 percent Hispanic and 11.3 percent multiracial.
  • 35 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Center For Inquiry School 84. Another IPS magnet, CFI schools run by lottery. About 76 percent of students passed English and math.

Demographics:

  • 83.4 percent white, 5.5 percent black, 5.5 percent multiracial, 2.8 percent Asian, 2.8 percent Hispanic.
  • 4.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Paramount School of Excellence. This charter school saw 73 percent of students pass both ISTEP tests.

Demographics:

  • 48.1 percent black, 27.7 percent white, 14.1 percent Hispanic, 9.8 percent multiracial.
  • 83.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Amy Beverland Elementary School. This Lawrence Township school is designated as a communications magnet. 72 percent of students passed both tests.

Demographics:

  • 59.3 percent white, 25.4 percent black, 8.1 percent multiracial, 5.1 percent Hispanic.
  • 24.6 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Arthur Newby Elementary School. At this Speedway school, about 70 percent of students passed both tests.

Demographics:

  • 63.3 percent white, 25 percent black, 6.1 percent multiracial, 4.4 percent Hispanic.
  • 43.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Bunker Hill Elementary School. At this Franklin Township school, 69.3% of students passed both exams.

Demographics:

  • 73.1 percent white, 11.9 percent Asian, 5.7 percent Hispanic, 5.2 percent multiracial, 3.7 percent black.
  • 30.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Allisonville Elementary School. Sixty-eight percent of students passed English and math at this Washington Township school.

Demographics:

  • 61.5 percent white, 18.3 percent black, 12.1 percent Hispanic, 6.3 percent multiracial.
  • 33.2 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Mary Adams Elementary School. Also a school in Franklin Township, 67.3 percent of students passed both exams.

Demographics:

  • 82.1 percent white, 5.7 percent multiracial, 4.8 percent Hispanic, 4.6 percent Asian, 2.8 percent black.
  • 32 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Rosa Parks Elementary School. At this Perry Township school, 67.1 percent of students passed.

Demographics:

  • 67 percent white, 15.5 percent Asian, 7.1 percent Hispanic, 6.7 percent multiracial, 3.7 percent black.
  • 30.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Speedway Junior High School. Also in Speedway, 66.7 kids passed English and math.

Demographics:

  • 54.2 percent white, 22.9 percent black, 12.2 percent Hispanic, 6.6 percent multiracial, 3.7 percent Asian.
  • 52.1 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Test tweaks

Tennessee will halve science and social studies tests for its youngest students

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Wednesday plans to slim down science and social studies assessments for third- and fourth-graders as she seeks to respond to complaints of over-testing in Tennessee.

McQueen has been mulling over that option since meeting last summer with her testing task force. The State Department of Education received more public feedback on testing during the last eight months while developing the state’s new plan for its schools in response to a new federal education law.

Tennessee already has eliminated a state test for eighth- and tenth-graders, as well as shortened TNReady, the state’s end-of-year tests for math and reading.

It’s uncertain just how significant the latest reductions are, since McQueen also said that some “components” would be added to English tests in those grades.  

And the trimming, while significant, falls short of a suggestion to eliminate the tests altogether. Federal law does not require tests in science and social studies for those grades, like it does for math and English.

Parents and educators have become increasingly vocal about the amount of testing students are undergoing. The average Tennessee third-grader, for instance, currently spends more than 11 hours taking end-of-course tests in math, English, social studies and science. That doesn’t include practice tests and screeners through the state’s 3-year-old intervention program.

McQueen noted that more changes could be on the horizon. Her testing task force has also considered eliminating or reducing TNReady for 11th-graders because they already are required to take the ACT college-entrance exam. “We will continue to evaluate all of our options for streamlining assessments in the coming years, including in the 11th grade,” she wrote in a blog post.

McQueen also announced that the state is tweaking its schools plan to reduce the role that chronic absenteeism will play in school evaluation scores.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to evaluate schools based off of a measure that’s not directly tied to test scores. Tennessee officials have selected chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing 10 percent of school days for any reason, including absences or suspension. McQueen said the measure will be changed to count for 10 percent of a school’s final grade, down from 20 percent for K-8 schools and 15 percent for high schools.

Some local district officials had raised concerns that absenteeism was out of the control of schools.

early adopters

Here are the 25 districts committing to taking TNReady online this spring

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

One year after Tennessee’s first attempt at online testing fizzled, 25 out of 140 Tennessee school districts have signed up to try again.

About 130 districts were eligible to test online this year.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Thursday the number is what she expected as districts prepare to administer the state’s TNReady assessment in April.

Although all districts will make the switch to online testing by 2019 for middle and high school students, they had the option to forge ahead this year with their oldest students.

The Department of Education is staggering its transition to online testing — a lesson learned last year when most of the state tried to do it all at once and the online platform buckled on the first day. As a result, the department fired its testing company, derailing the state’s assessment program, and later hired  Questar as its new test maker.

Districts piloted Questar’s online platform last fall, and had until Wednesday to decide whether to forge ahead with online testing for their high school students this spring or opt for paper-and-pencil tests.

McQueen announced the state’s new game plan for TNReady testing in January and said she is confident that the new platform will work.

While this year was optional for high schools, all high schools will participate in 2018. Middle and elementary schools will make the switch in 2019, though districts will have the option of administering the test on paper to its youngest students.

Districts opting in this spring are:

  • Alvin C. York Institute
  • Bedford County
  • Bledsoe County
  • Blount County
  • Bristol City
  • Campbell County
  • Cannon County
  • Cheatham County
  • Clay County
  • Cocke County
  • Coffee County
  • Cumberland County
  • Grundy County
  • Hamilton County
  • Hancock County
  • Knox County
  • Jackson-Madison County
  • Moore County
  • Morgan County
  • Putnam County
  • Scott County
  • Sullivan County
  • Trousdale County
  • Washington County
  • Williamson County