Testing Testing

Indianapolis high schools struggled on the 2016 ISTEP test, but these 10 were on top

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

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

Indiana high school students took the ISTEP test for the first time this year — and most posted abysmal scores.

In Marion County, even the schools with the highest number of students passing saw nearly half of their students fail, which means that thousands of Indianapolis students could be headed toward graduation without the skills they need to succeed in college in careers.

But there were a few standouts that outperformed the rest of the pack on the new test, a 10th grade ISTEP, which this year replaced subject-specific exams in Algebra I, freshman English and biology as a measure of school performance.

Three charter schools topped the list, including one surprising contender — a recovery high school designed to support students dealing with addiction. The rest of the schools were primarily in township districts, where schools tend to be more racially and socioeconomically balanced and better-funded.

Just one Indianapolis Public Schools high school made the top 10 list. The magnet school serves students with a rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is designed to prepare kids for a “global world” by teaching them to think critically, use research, ask probing questions and get involved in their communities.

We included school demographics because research shows that schools with more white and affluent students tend to do better on standardized tests. That means the schools with more low-income kids are the ones to watch.

These are the 10 Marion County public high schools with the highest ISTEP passing rates:  

Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School. This charter school, part of the six-school Tindley charter network, saw 57 percent of its students pass both English and math ISTEP exams.


  • 94.6 percent black, 3.1 percent multiracial, 1.5 percent white.
  • 68.5 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Herron High School. At this charter school, a highly sought-after charter school on the near northside known for its liberal arts curriculum, 51.3 percent of students passed both tests.


  • 61.6 percent white, 23.5 percent black, 7.5 percent multiracial, 4.8 percent Hispanic, 2.2 percent Asian.
  • 35 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Hope Academy. This charter school, which serves students recovering from addiction, had 50 percent of students pass both exams.


  • 71.4 percent white, 10.7 percent multiracial, 10.7 percent Hispanic, 3.6 percent black, 3.6 percent Asian.
  • 46.4 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Franklin Central High School. This Franklin Township school saw 44.6 percent of kids passing the English and math tests.


  • 77.9 percent white, 7 percent black, 6.3 percent Hispanic, 4.8 percent multiracial, 3.5 percent Asian.
  • 34.1 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

North Central High School. At this Washington Township school, 34.9 percent of students passed the exams.


  • 41 percent black, 35.2 percent white, 13.5 percent Hispanic, 6.2 percent multiracial, 4.1 percent Asian.
  • 47.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Speedway Senior High School. This Speedway school saw 28.4 percent of students pass both tests.


  • 56 percent white, 21.6 percent black, 11.7 percent Hispanic, 5.6 percent multiracial, 5.1 percent Asian.
  • 51.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Shortridge High School. The only Indianapolis Public Schools high school to make the top 10 list, this IB magnet school saw 26.9 percent of its students passed the two tests.


  • 44.7 percent black, 27.2 percent white, 20.1 percent Hispanic, 6.6 percent multiracial,
  • 52.6 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Lawrence North High School. At this township school, 25 percent students passed both ISTEP English and math tests.


  • 44.4 percent black, 31.8 percent white, 15.5 percent Hispanic, 6.4 percent multiracial, 1.8 percent Asian.
  • 54.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Pike High School. At this township school, 24.6 percent of students passed both ISTEP exams.


  • 62.6 percent black, 18.9 percent Hispanic, 9.7 percent white, 6.6 percent multiracial, 2.2 percent Asian.
  • 58.1 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Southport High School. This high school in Perry Township saw 23.7 percent of students pass the exams.


  • 57.9 percent white, 16.2 Asian, 13.4 Hispanic, 7 percent black, 5.5 percent multiracial.
  • 60.4 percent percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

rules and regs

State shortens length of ‘gag order’ on teachers discussing Regents questions online

PHOTO: G. Tatter

After pushback from teachers, the State Education Department has changed a new provision that temporarily prohibits teachers from discussing Regents exam questions online.

The original rule stated that teachers could not use email or a listserv to discuss test questions or other specific content with other teachers until a week after the exam period ended on June 23. As Chalkbeat reported Tuesday, teachers objected, arguing that they sometimes needed to discuss questions in order to properly grade the tests or to challenge questions that seems unfair.

Under the change, tests taken between June 13 and June 16 can be discussed online beginning June 23. And for those taken between June 19 and June 22, teachers can discuss content online beginning June 27.

According to education department officials, the provision was intended to ensure that testing material did not spread online before all students had completed their exams, particularly among schools that serve students with special needs, who qualify for multiple-day testing.

“We believe that nearly all students who are testing with this accommodation will have completed their exams by these dates,” Steven Katz, director of the Office of State Assessment, wrote in a memo to school principals and leaders.

Still, longtime physics teacher Gene Gordon and former president of the Science Teachers Association of New York State noted that, to some extent, the damage was done since the amendment to the rule came out only after many teachers had already graded their exams.

“It did not have any real effect,” Gordon said.

The New York State United Teachers — which criticized the new provision on Tuesday as a “gag order” and called for its repeal — called the amendment a “clear victory” for educators. Still, NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn told Chalkbeat, “it clearly will be more helpful in the future than this year.”

Testing Testing

Calculator mix-up could force some students to retake ISTEP, and Pearson is partially to blame

PHOTO: Ann Schimke

ISTEP scores for thousands of students across the state will be thrown out this year, including at two Indianapolis private schools, according to state officials.

The mishap can be traced back to calculators. Students at 20 schools used calculators on a section of the 2017 ISTEP math test when they shouldn’t have — in at least one district because of incorrect instructions from Pearson, the company that administers the tests in Indiana.

It’s a small glitch compared to the massive testing issues Indiana experienced with its previous testing company, CTB McGraw Hill. But years of problems have put teachers, students and parents on high alert for even minor hiccups. In 2013, for example, about 78,000 students had their computers malfunction during testing. Pearson began administering ISTEP in 2016.

The calculator mix-up involving Pearson happened in Rochester Community Schools, located about two hours north of Indianapolis. About 700 students in three schools received the incorrect instructions.

Molly Deuberry, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education, said that Rochester is the only district known to have received the incorrect instructions, but the state is also investigating calculator-related problems at 19 other schools.

According to federal rules, students who use calculators on non-calculator test sections must have their scores labeled as “undetermined.” Current sophomores will need to retake the test, since passing the 10th-grade exam is a graduation requirement in Indiana. Students will have multiple opportunities to do so, including during the summer, state officials said.

It’s not clear how the invalidated scores will affect those schools’ A-F letter grades. It is up to the Indiana State Board of Education to handle A-F grade appeals, which districts can request once grades are released.

“The Department and State Board will collaborate to ensure that the State Board receives sufficient detail about this incident when reviewing the appeals,” the education department said in an email.

Pearson spokesman Scott Overland said in an email that they would work with the education department to follow up on the calculator issues and correct their processes for next year.

“In some cases, Pearson inadvertently provided inaccurate or unclear guidance on the use of calculators during testing,” Overland said. “In these instances, we followed up quickly to help local school officials take corrective action.”

Here are the districts and schools the state says had students incorrectly use calculators on this year’s ISTEP:

  • Covington Christian School, Covington
  • Eastbrook South Elementary, Eastbrook Schools
  • Eastern Hancock Elementary School, Eastern Hancock County Schools
  • Emmanuel-St. Michael Lutheran School, Fort Wayne
  • Frankfort Middle School, Frankfort Community Schools
  • George M Riddle Elementary School, Rochester Community Schools
  • Lasalle Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka
  • New Haven Middle School, East Allen County Schools
  • Rochester Community Middle School, Rochester Community Schools
  • Rochester Community High School, Rochester Community Schools
  • Saint Boniface School, Lafayette
  • Saint Joseph High School, South Bend
  • Saint Roch Catholic School, Indianapolis
  • Silver Creek Middle School, West Clark Community Schools
  • St. Louis de Montfort School, Lafayette
  • Tennyson Elementary School, Warrick County Schools
  • Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, School City of Hammond
  • Trinity Christian School, Indianapolis
  • Waterloo Elementary School, DeKalb County Schools
  • Westfield Middle School, Westfield-Washington Schools

This story has been updated to include comments from Pearson.