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.

star power

Matt Damon’s latest role: The voice of an education documentary featuring Tennessee testing

PHOTO: Sarah Mondale, Vera Aronow

Tennessee’s debate about over-testing is a cause célèbre — or at least a cause drawing the attention of Matt Damon.

The movie star narrates a new documentary that explores the privatization of public schools. It features Nashville’s Gower Elementary School, as well as board member Amy Frogge of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

Nashville school board member Amy Frogge is featured in the documentary.

Called “Backpack Full of Cash,” the 90-minute film was released in late 2016 and screened this week at the Nashville Film Festival.

“I got involved in ‘Backpack Full of Cash’ because I believe that every kid should have access to great public schools,” Damon said in a statement. “… I got a great education in public schools, and my mom is an educator so I know just how hard teachers work every day.”

The segment featuring Gower Elementary was filmed in the spring of 2014 as students prepared for TCAP tests. A scene showing students practicing multiple-choice questions is followed by a comment from education writer David Kirp: “I’ve sat through those classes. I could barely sit still for 42 minutes. They’re asked to do it for 12 years.”

The film details a long list of tests that Gower students take during the school year, ending with four days of state-mandated testing.

Filmmakers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow said they chose to focus that part of the film on Tennessee because of the state’s 2010 Race to the Top win of $500 million in federal funds, which was spurred by a slew of reforms with test data at their core.

“(Tennessee) was a leader in the use of data and testing to drive education — a key part of market-based school reform,” Mondale said.

The movie also covers charter schools in Philadelphia and school vouchers in New Orleans. Both have been hotly debated issues in Tennessee as well.

The film’s title pokes at an argument often made by school choice advocates: that public money should follow students, no matter what school they attend.

“This idea that education is nothing more than the sum of public money that follows kids around is exactly the argument that the film is trying to refute,” Mondale said.

Since the movie’s filming, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has twice convened task forces to reduce testing, resulting in the elimination of required eighth- and tenth-grade tests. After test times ballooned in the first year of TNReady in 2016, the state shortened the English test this year. (For fifth-graders, it’s dropped from 226 minutes during the last year of TCAP in 2014-15, to 195 minutes this year.) Meanwhile, testing in math has gotten longer (92 minutes in 2014-15 vs. 115 minutes this year), and science has stayed the same. This year’s social studies test is a shortened field test.

McQueen says her department has taken pains to make the current tests more engaging, while emphasizing that the best test prep is “good teaching,” not tedious practice questions.

“Backpack Full of Cash” is a co-production of Stone Lantern Films Inc. and Turnstone Productions. You can find more information about the film and how to watch it here.

BACKPACK FULL OF CASH Official Trailer from Stone Lantern Films on Vimeo.

 

Testing Testing

“ILEARN” is in, ISTEP is out — Indiana legislature approves test set to begin in 2019. Now awaiting governor’s OK.

PHOTO: Grace Tatter

A little more than a year ago, lawmakers made the dramatic call to “repeal” the state’s beleaguered ISTEP test without a set alternative.

Friday night, they finally decided on a plan for what should replace it.

The “ILEARN” testing system in House Bill 1003 passed the House 68-29 and passed the Senate 39-11. Next, the bill will go to Gov. Eric Holcomb for him to sign into law.

The new test would be used for the first time in 2019, meaning ISTEP still has one more year of life. In the meantime, the Indiana Department of Education will be tasked with developing the new test and finding a vendor. Currently, the state contracts with the British test writing company Pearson.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said he was very pleased with the compromise, which he thinks could result in a short, more effective test — although many of those details will depend on the final test writer.

However, a number of Democrats, and even some Republicans, expressed frustration with the testing proposal.

“The federal government requires us to take one test,” said Sen. Aaron Freeman, a Republican from Indianapolis. “Why we continue to add more and more to this, I have no idea.”

For the most part, the test resembles what was recommended by a group of educators, lawmakers and policymakers charged with studying a test replacement. There would be a new year-end test for elementary and middle school students, and High schools would give end-of-course exams in 10th grade English, ninth-grade biology, and algebra I.

An optional end-of-course exam would be added for U.S. government, and the state would be required to test kids in social studies once in fifth or eighth grade.

It’s not clear if the plan still includes state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick’s suggestion to use an elementary and middle school test that would be “computer-adaptive” and adjust difficulty based on students’ answers.

The plan does make potentially significant changes to the state’s graduation requirements. Rather than having ECAs count as the “graduation exam,” the bill would create a number of graduation pathways that the Indiana State Board of Education would flesh out. Options could include the SAT, ACT, industry certifications, or the ASVAB military entrance exam.

Test researchers who have come to speak to Indiana lawmakers have cautioned against such a move, as many of these measures were not designed to determine high school graduation.

While teacher evaluations would still be expected to include test scores in some way, the bill gives some flexibility to districts as to specifically how to incorporate them, said Rep. Bob Behning, an Indianapolis Republican and the bill’s author.

Currently, law says ISTEP scores must “significantly inform” evaluations, but districts use a wide range of percentages to fit that requirement.

You can find all of Chalkbeat’s testing coverage here.