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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

Demographics:

  • 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.

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