Testing

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

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

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

As in years past, the public schools that struggled most on the state’s ISTEP exam in 2016 were either middle schools, schools where the majority of students are poor or schools that serve primarily students with special needs.

Every school on this list fell far below the state’s average passing rate of 51.6 percent for students in grades 3-8. And many had even lower passing rates than they did in 2015 when a new test caused scores to drop throughout the state.

Two of the schools are charter schools: one that focuses on students with special needs and the other a former IPS school that was taken over by the state after years of low test scores and handed over to a for-profit charter manager.

The other eight schools are part of Indianapolis Public Schools or the Wayne Township school district.

These are the 10 Marion County public schools with the lowest 2016 ISTEP passing rates:

Indiana Math and Science Academy South. This charter school saw 7.8 percent of students pass both tests.

Demographics:

  • 58 percent black, 23.5 percent white, 10.3 percent multiracial, 8.2 percent Hispanic.
  • 95 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Northwest Community Jr. High School. Only 7.7 percent of students passed both tests at this IPS School.

Demographics:

  • 60.1 percent black, 25.8 percent Hispanic, 8.2 percent white, 3.3 percent Asian, 2.6 percent multiracial.
  • 80.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Riverside School 44. At this IPS school, 7.1 percent of students passed both tests.

Demographics:

  • 63.7 percent black, 25.4 percent Hispanic, 8.6 percent white, 1.7 percent multiracial.
  • 84.5 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

James Whitcomb Riley School 43. Just 5.3 percent of kids passed English and math at this IPS school.

Demographics:

  • 83.6 percent black, 6.8 percent multiracial, 5.6 percent white, 3.5 percent Hispanic.
  • 77 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Francis Scott Key 103. This IPS school is an innovation school, meaning it’s still a part of the district but is managed by Phalen Leadership Academies, a charter school network that took over the school last year. The school is still struggling: Just 4.6 percent of students passed both the math and English exam.

Demographics:

  • 83.3 percent black, 9.7 percent Hispanic, 3.4 percent multiracial, 3.4 percent white.
  • 74.4 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Arlington Middle School. At this IPS school, which was separated from Arlington High School in 2015, 3.5 percent of students passed both ISTEP exams.

Demographics:

  • 87.2 percent black, 5.5 percent Hispanic, 3.7 percent white, 3.7 percent multiracial.
  • 72.1 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Sanders School. At this Wayne Township school, which serves students with special needs, 2.4 percent of students passed both ISTEP English and math tests.

Demographics:

  • 54 percent white, 27.6 percent black, 10.3 percent multiracial, 8 percent Hispanic.
  • 59.7 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

John Marshall Jr. High School. Only 2 percent of students passed both tests at this IPS middle school.

Demographics:

  • 69.3 percent black, 14.6 percent Hispanic, 11.5 percent white, 4.2 percent multiracial.
  • 76.3 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Damar Charter Academy. No students passed ISTEP at this charter school, which enrolls almost entirely students who need special education services.

Demographics:

  • 65.6 percent white, 26.4 percent black, 6.1 percent multiracial, 1.2 percent Hispanic.
  • 80.9 percent percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Marion Academy. This charter school saw no students pass both exams.

Demographics:

  • 70.8 percent black, 18.5 percent white, 5.4 percent Hispanic, 5.4 percent multiracial.
  • 55.6 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misreported some of the bottom 10 schools and their passing rates. Emma Donnan Middle School and George Washington Jr. High School, previously on the list, saw 8.7 and 8.6 percent of students passing both exams, respectively, moving them farther up the rankings. They should not have been included among the bottom 10.

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