Top Scoring Schools

Top-scoring township schools scored well on Indiana’s tougher new state ISTEP exam

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
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Despite a much tougher exam that led to dramatic drops in test scores across the state, the top Marion County schools from townships and small cities posted solid test scores in 2015, largely holding their high rankings from the previous year.

Eight of the top 10 schools were ranked in the top 10 last year while two schools were newcomers to the top-ten list. The new arrivals were Washington Township’s John Strange and Allisonville elementary schools. Washington Township had three of the top 10 schools and and Franklin Township had four.

Chalkbeat in recent weeks has highlighted the top 10 IPS schools that beat odds on the 2015 exam, the 10 IPS schools that ranked lowest for percent passing ISTEP and the top 10 charter schools in the city when it came to passing the test. This week, we’re listing the top ten scores among the schools in Marion County’s non-IPS districts.

All of these schools had passing rates that easily exceeded the state average of 52.6 percent passing and none of them saw their passing rates drop by more than 17 percentage points, the average decline statewide. Here’s a look at the township schools that made the grade:

Mary Adams Elementary School, Franklin Township

Mary Adams Elementary School vaulted from fourth best on ISTEP among township ad small city schools in 2014 to the best in the city in 2015 .

Franklin Township's Mary Adams Elementary School was the top scoring township school in 2015.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Franklin Township’s Mary Adams Elementary School was the top scoring township school in 2015.

That leap was fueled by better-than-average performance on the new, tougher ISTEP. With 77.2 percent passing in 2015, Mary Adams was just 11 percentage points below its 2014 passing rate. That is much better than most schools did on the new test. The average Indiana school saw its ISTEP passing rate fall by 19 percentage points.

The school has been moving up the list of top scoring Indianapolis schools for several years. That is particularly impressive because the school has a higher percentage of children who come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch than most high-scoring schools. Meal assistance goes to 32 percent of the school’s students meaning their families earn less than $44,863 annually for a family of four. Still, the school’s poverty rate is well below the state average of 47.2 percent.

Of the 563 students in grade K-5 who attend Mary Adams, about 82 percent are white, 5 percent are Hispanic and 3 percent are black. About 12 percent of students were in special education and 4 percent were English language learners. The state averages in 2014-15 were 15 percent and 5 percent.

Bunker Hill Elementary School, Franklin Township

After two years as the top ranked Marion County township or small city school when it comes to ISTEP, Franklin Township’s Bunker Hill Elementary School slipped to second place this year.

Franklin Township's Bunker Hill Elementary School has the highest passing rate among township schools on ISTEP in 2015.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Franklin Township’s Bunker Hill Elementary School has the highest passing rate among township schools on ISTEP in 2015.

Its 74 percent passing rate in 2015 was down about 17 percentage points from the prior year. That drop was smaller than the 19-point drop experienced by the average Indiana school on the tougher new exam.

Bunker Hill serves 561 students in grades K to 5. About 31 percent come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. About 73 percent of students at the school are white, 12 percent are Asian, 6 percent are Hispanic and 4 percent are black.

About 13 percent were in special education and 6 percent were English language learners in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available.

John Strange Elementary School, Washington Township

John Strange Elementary School did not rank in the top 10 last year but this year placed third best on ISTEP among township and small city schools thanks to strong performance on the tougher 2015 exam.

Students work in small groups at John Strange Elementary School in Washington Township.
PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
Students work in small groups at John Strange Elementary School in Washington Township.

With 74 percent passing ISTEP in 2015, John Strange was just six points below its 2014 passing rate. That is one of the smallest drops in the state.

That especially impressive because John Strange serves a high poverty student body. About 54 percent of students come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. High poverty schools generally have lower test scores than most schools.

A large school, John Strange serves 638 students in grades K-5. About 44 percent of students are black, 34 percent are white and 10 percent are Hispanic.

About 10 percent of students were in special education and 7 percent were English language learners in 2014-15, the last year for which data was available.

Amy Beverland Elementary School, Lawrence Township

Amy Beveralnd dropped a few spots down this list from No. 2 last year, but still had strong test performance in 2015.
With 73.6 percent passing, the school’s drop from the prior year was slightly better than the statewide average so Amy Beverland continued a five-year run of strong test performance.

Amy Beveralnd Elementary School in Lawrence Township was one of the county's top scoring schools.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Amy Beveralnd Elementary School in Lawrence Township was one of the county’s top scoring schools.

In general, students at Amy Beverland face fewer barriers to learning than most schools. About 25 percent of its students come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. About 10 percent were in special education and 3 percent were English language learners in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available. All three of those numbers are below the state averages.

The school has a large and growing enrollment with 806 students in grades 1 to 6. About 59 percent of the school’s students are white, 25 percent black and 5 percent Hispanic.

South Creek Elementary School, Franklin Township

A high scoring school for five years, Franklin Township’s South Creek also did well on the new ISTEP with 73.6 percent passing in 2015.

Franklin Township’s South Creek Elementary School has been rated an A for more than five years.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Franklin Township’s South Creek Elementary School has been rated an A for more than five years.

That’s down about 17 percentage points, which was in line with the average drop across the state.

The school serves 667 students in grades K-5. Just 21 percent of its students come from families poor enough to qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

About 15 percent of its students were in special education and 5 percent were English language learners.

About 81 percent of the school’s students are white, 5 percent are Hispanic and 3 percent are black.

Allison Elementary School, Speedway

Allison Elementary School in Speedway saw 72.7 percent pass ISTEP in 2015. That’s down about 16 percentage points from last year, which is slightly better than the average Indiana school.

James Allison Elementary School in Speedway scored well on ISTEP.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
James Allison Elementary School in Speedway scored well on ISTEP.

Allison Elementary has had strong performance on ISTEP the past five years, and it has done so despite serving students who face learning barriers that sometimes drag down test scores.

About 71 percent of the students come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The school serves a small enrollment of about 291 students. About 35 percent are white, 32 percent are black and 20 percent are Hispanic.

It had a large number of children who are learning English as a second language at 22 percent and about 11 percent were in special education in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available.

Rosa Parks Elementary School, Perry Township

With about 72.5 percent passing ISTEP in 2015, Perry Township’s Rosa Parks Elementary School was about 14 percentage points below its 2014 passing rate. That’s a smaller decline than the average Indiana school experienced.

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Perry Township has been rated an A for five straight years.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Rosa Parks Elementary School in Perry Township has been rated an A for five straight years.

The school opened in 2003 under the management of EdisonLearning, a New York-based company and has mostly been a strong performer on tests in that time. The company no longer has a role at Rosa Parks.

About 721 students in grades K to 5 attend the school. About 31 percent of students come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price lunch. About 67 percent of its students are white, 16 percent are Asian, 7 percent are Hispanic and 4 percent are black.

In 2014-15, the last year for which data is available, 17 percent of students were in special education and 10 percent were English language learners.

Crooked Creek Elementary School, Washington Township

Crooked Creek Elementary School in Washington Township saw fewer students pass ISTEP in 2015, but its passing rate dropped less than most Indiana schools.

Washington Township's Crooked Creek Elementary school has maintained a high ISTEP passing rate for several years.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Washington Township’s Crooked Creek Elementary school has maintained a high ISTEP passing rate for several years.

About 71.7 percent passed the test, down about 13 percentage points from 2014. That drop was not as deep as most schools in Indiana.

Crooked Creek has 720 students in grades K-5 and serves a high-poverty enrollment. About 48 percent of its students come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

The school is 45 percent black, 29 percent white and 12 percent Hispanic. About 13 percent of students were in special education and 9 percent were English language learners in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available.

Thompson Crossing Elementary School, Franklin Township

Franklin Township’s Thompson Crossing Elementary School saw its passing rate drop from the prior year, but by less than the average Indiana school.

Thompson Crossing Elementary School posted strong test scores second straight year.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Thompson Crossing Elementary School posted strong test scores second straight year.

About 71 percent of the school’s students passed the exam, down about 13 percentage points from the prior year.

The school’s test scores had been on the rise for I’ve years prior to the new, tougher ISTEP test.

Thompson Crossing has about 600 students enrolled in grades K-5. About 40 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

The school is about 71 percent white, 10 percent black and 8 percent Hispanic.

About 10 percent are in special education and 5 percent are English language learners in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available.

Allisonville Elementary School, Washington Township

Allisonville Elementary School in Washington Township saw about 68.3 percent of students pass ISTEP last year, down about 15 percentage points from the prior year.

Strong ISTEP scores placed Allisonville Elementary School into the county's top 10.
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Strong ISTEP scores placed Allisonville Elementary School into the county’s top 10.

That smaller-than-average drop, compared tot he rest of the state, helped vault Allisonville into the city’s top 10 among township and small city school districts.

Allisonville is a large school serving 767 students in grades K-5. About 33 percent come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. About 61 percent are white, 17 percent are black and 12 percent are Hispanic.

About 14 percent of the school’s students were in special education and about 8 percent were learning English as a new language in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available.

 

Surprising report

EXCLUSIVE: Did online snafus skew Tennessee test scores? Analysts say not much

PHOTO: TN.gov
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will release the results of Tennessee's 2017-18 standardized test this week, but the reliability of those TNReady scores has been in question since this spring's problem-plagued administration of the online exam.

An independent analysis of technical problems that disrupted Tennessee’s online testing program this spring is challenging popular opinion that student scores were significantly tainted as a result.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Wednesday that the disruptions to computerized testing had “small to no impact” on scores, based on a monthlong analysis by the Human Resources Research Organization, or HumRRO. The Virginia-based technical group has expertise in psychometrics, the science behind educational assessments.

“We do believe these are valid, reliable scores,” McQueen told Chalkbeat on the eve of releasing state- and district-level scores for TNReady, the state’s standardized test in its third year.


Here are five things to know as Tennessee prepares to release TNReady scores


The state hired the research group to scrutinize several issues, including whether frequent online testing snafus made this year’s results unreliable. For instance, during at least seven days out of the three-week testing window, students statewide reported problems logging in, staying online, and submitting their tests — issues that eventually prompted the Legislature to roll back the importance of scores in students’ final grades, teacher evaluations, and school accountability systems.

But the analysis did not reveal a dramatic impact.

“For students who experienced the disruption, the analysis did not find any systematic effect on test scores that resulted from lapses in time between signing in and submitting their tests,” McQueen told Chalkbeat.

There was, however, a “small but consistent effect” if a student had to log on multiple times in order to complete the test, she said.

“When I say small, we’re talking about an impact that would be a handful of scale score points out of, say, a possible 200 or 250 points,” McQueen said.

Analysts found some differences in test score averages between 2017 and 2018 but concluded they were not due to the technical disruptions.

“Plausible explanations could be the students just didn’t know the (academic) standards as well and just didn’t do as well on the test,” McQueen said. “Or perhaps they were less motivated after learning that their scores would not count in their final grades after the legislation passed. … The motivation of our students is an unknown we just can’t quantify. We can’t get in their minds on motivation.”

About half of the 600,000 students who took TNReady this year tested with computers, and the other half used paper materials in the state’s transition to online exams. Those testing online included all high school students.

Out of about 502,000 end-of-course tests administered to high schoolers, educators filed about 7,600 irregularity reports – about 1.4 percent – related to problems with test administration, which automatically invalidated those results.

The state asked the analysts specifically to look at the irregularity reports for patterns that could be cause for concern, such as demographic shifts or excessive use of invalidations. They found none.

TNReady headaches started on April 16 – the first day of testing – when students struggled to log on. More problems emerged during the weeks that followed until technicians finally traced the issues to a combination of “bugs in the software” and the slowness of a computerized tool that helps students in need of audible instructions. At one point, officials with testing company Questar blamed a possible cyberattack for shutting down its online platform, but state investigators later dismissed that theory.

While this year’s scores officially are mostly inconsequential, McQueen emphasized Wednesday that the results are still valuable for understanding student performance and growth and analyzing the effectiveness of classroom instruction across Tennessee.

“TNReady scores should be looked at just like any data point in the scheme of multiple data points,” she said. “That’s how we talk about this every year. But it’s an important data point.”

heads up

Tennessee will release TNReady test scores on Thursday. Here are five things to know.

PHOTO: Getty Images/Kali9

When Tennessee unveils its latest standardized test scores on Thursday, the results won’t count for much.

Technical problems marred the return to statewide online testing this spring, prompting the passage of several emergency state laws that rendered this year’s TNReady scores mostly inconsequential. As a result, poor results can’t be used to hold students, educators, or schools accountable — for instance, firing a teacher or taking over a struggling school through the state’s Achievement School District.

But good or bad, the scores still can be useful, say teachers like Josh Rutherford, whose 11th-grade students were among those who experienced frequent online testing interruptions in April.

“There are things we can learn from the data,” said Rutherford, who teaches English at Houston County High School. “I think it would be unprofessional to simply dismiss this year’s scores.”

Heading into this week’s data dump, here are five things to know:

1. This will be the biggest single-day release of state scores since the TNReady era began three years ago.

Anyone with internet access will be able to view state- and district-level scores for math, English, and science for grades 3-12. And more scores will come later. School-by-school data will be released publicly in a few weeks. In addition, Tennessee will unveil the results of its new social studies test this fall after setting the thresholds for what constitutes passing scores at each grade level.

2. Still, this year’s results are anticlimactic.

There are two major reasons. First, many educators and parents question the scores’ reliability due to days of online testing headaches. They also worry that high school students stopped trying after legislators stepped in to say the scores don’t necessarily have to count in final grades. Second, because the scores won’t carry their intended weight, the stakes are lower this year. For instance, teachers have the option of nullifying their evaluation scores. And the state also won’t give each school an A-F grade this fall as originally planned. TNReady scores were supposed to be incorporated into both of those accountability measures.

3. The state is looking into the reliability of the online test scores.

In addition to an internal review by the Education Department, the state commissioned an independent analysis by the Human Resources Research Organization. Researchers for the Virginia-based technical group studied the impact of Tennessee’s online interruptions by looking into testing irregularity reports filed in schools and by scrutinizing variances from year to year and school to school, among other things.

4. The reliability of paper-and-pencil test scores are not in question.

Only about half of Tennessee’s 600,000 students who took TNReady this year tested on computers. The other half — in grades 3-5 and many students in grades 6-8 — took the exams the old-fashioned way. Though there were some complaints related to paper testing too, state officials say they’re confident about those results. Even so, the Legislature made no distinction between the online and paper administrations of TNReady when they ordered that scores only count if they benefit students, teachers, and schools.

5. Ultimately, districts and school communities will decide how to use this year’s data.

Even within the same district, it wasn’t uncommon for one school to experience online problems and another to enjoy a much smoother testing experience. “Every district was impacted differently,” said Dale Lynch, executive director of the state superintendents organization. “It’s up to the local district to look at the data and make decisions based on those local experiences.”

District leaders have been reviewing the embargoed scores for several weeks, and they’ll share them with teachers in the days and weeks ahead. As for families, parents can ask to see their students’ individual score reports so they can learn from this year’s results, too. Districts distribute those reports in different ways, but they’re fair game beginning Thursday. You can learn more here.