bragging rights

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

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
Students at Sidener Academy in Indianapolis Public Schools read or do homework.

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

The annual release of state test scores this morning contained disappointing news for Marion County public school students and educators — but there’s still plenty of schools that can claim the bragging rights that come from outperforming their peers.

The Marion County public schools that posted the highest scores on this year’s ISTEP are largely traditional public schools — not charter schools — that serve fairly affluent students and tend to have more white students than minorities.

This is not surprising — in Indianapolis and across the country, wealthier white schools typically to do better on state exams. In some cases that’s because those schools have more resources, experienced teachers and less teacher turnover. There’s also research that shows standardized tests favor white, middle class kids.

But even many of these top-performing schools posted scores that were slightly lower than last year, when scores dropped considerably because of a major test change that stemmed from new, more challenging state standards in 2014.

Here’s a look at the public schools with the top 10 highest ISTEP passing rates in Marion County. For context, the racial makeup of students in the county is fairly balanced, with white and black students each making up a little more than one third of kids and the last third a mix of children from Hispanic, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds.

These 10 Marion County public schools had the highest passing rates:

Merle Sidener Gifted Academy. This Indianapolis Public Schools magnet for high ability students had 89.8 percent of its kids pass English and math tests.


  • 48 percent white, 26.5 percent black, 12.3 percent Hispanic and 11.3 percent multiracial.
  • 35 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Center For Inquiry School 84. Another IPS magnet, CFI schools run by lottery. About 76 percent of students passed English and math.


  • 83.4 percent white, 5.5 percent black, 5.5 percent multiracial, 2.8 percent Asian, 2.8 percent Hispanic.
  • 4.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Paramount School of Excellence. This charter school saw 73 percent of students pass both ISTEP tests.


  • 48.1 percent black, 27.7 percent white, 14.1 percent Hispanic, 9.8 percent multiracial.
  • 83.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Amy Beverland Elementary School. This Lawrence Township school is designated as a communications magnet. 72 percent of students passed both tests.


  • 59.3 percent white, 25.4 percent black, 8.1 percent multiracial, 5.1 percent Hispanic.
  • 24.6 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Arthur Newby Elementary School. At this Speedway school, about 70 percent of students passed both tests.


  • 63.3 percent white, 25 percent black, 6.1 percent multiracial, 4.4 percent Hispanic.
  • 43.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Bunker Hill Elementary School. At this Franklin Township school, 69.3% of students passed both exams.


  • 73.1 percent white, 11.9 percent Asian, 5.7 percent Hispanic, 5.2 percent multiracial, 3.7 percent black.
  • 30.8 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Allisonville Elementary School. Sixty-eight percent of students passed English and math at this Washington Township school.


  • 61.5 percent white, 18.3 percent black, 12.1 percent Hispanic, 6.3 percent multiracial.
  • 33.2 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Mary Adams Elementary School. Also a school in Franklin Township, 67.3 percent of students passed both exams.


  • 82.1 percent white, 5.7 percent multiracial, 4.8 percent Hispanic, 4.6 percent Asian, 2.8 percent black.
  • 32 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Rosa Parks Elementary School. At this Perry Township school, 67.1 percent of students passed.


  • 67 percent white, 15.5 percent Asian, 7.1 percent Hispanic, 6.7 percent multiracial, 3.7 percent black.
  • 30.9 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Speedway Junior High School. Also in Speedway, 66.7 kids passed English and math.


  • 54.2 percent white, 22.9 percent black, 12.2 percent Hispanic, 6.6 percent multiracial, 3.7 percent Asian.
  • 52.1 percent of students qualify for meal assistance.

Surprising report

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

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.