top 10s

See which Marion County schools posted the highest and lowest 2018 ISTEP scores

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

This year’s ISTEP results are in, and while scores remain flat, disparities are also holding firm.

In Marion County, private schools — required to administer state exams if they take school vouchers — outperformed many public schools. But in the mix of top performers were also some of Indianapolis Public Schools’ most popular schools; Paramount School of Excellence, a charter school recently recognized with a national award; and a campus of the Oaks Academy, a private school dedicated to promoting racial and economic integration.

Still, Indianapolis Public Schools recorded some of the lowest passing rates in the county — some at schools that are now closed after the district consolidated high schools.

See the lists below for the highest and lowest Marion County schools. Look up your school’s results here, and your district’s results here.

Marion County schools with the highest passing rates for both English and math, grades 3-8

1. Hasten Hebrew Academy Of Indianapolis (private school) — 89.8 percent

1. Merle Sidener Gifted Academy (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 89.8 percent

3. Immaculate Heart of Mary School (private school) — 89.2 percent

4. Saint Simon The Apostle School (private school) — 86.9 percent

5. South Creek Elementary (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 81.8 percent

6. Saint Thomas Aquinas School (private school) — 80.7 percent

7. Center for Inquiry School 84 (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 80.4 percent

8. The Oaks Academy – Fall Creek (private school) — 80.3 percent

9. Paramount School of Excellence (charter school) — 80 percent

10. Christ The King School (private school) — 77.5 percent

Marion County public schools with the highest passing rates for both English and math, grades 3-8

1. Merle Sidener Gifted Academy (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 89.8 percent

2. South Creek Elementary (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 81.8 percent

3. Center for Inquiry School 84 (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 80.4 percent

4. Paramount School of Excellence (charter school) — 80 percent

5. Thompson Crossing Elementary School (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 76.1 percent

6. Bunker Hill Elementary School (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 73.5 percent

7. Acton Elementary School (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 73.1 percent

8. Mary Adams Elementary School (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 68.9 percent

9. Amy Beverland Elementary (M S D Lawrence Township) — 67.8 percent

10. Arthur C Newby Elementary School 2 (School Town of Speedway) — 65 percent

10. Allisonville Elementary School (M S D Washington Township) — 65 percent

Marion County schools with the lowest passing rates for both English and math, grades 3-8

1. Broad Ripple Magnet Jr HS-Performing Arts (Indianapolis Public Schools, now closed) — 2.2 percent

2. Northwest Community Middle School (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 3.5 percent

3. Marion Academy (charter school) — 4.3 percent

4. Kindezi Academy* (innovation charter school) — 4.5 percent

5. John Marshall Middle (Indianapolis Public Schools, now closed) — 4.7 percent

6. Joyce Kilmer School 69* (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 5.3 percent

7. Indianapolis Lighthouse East (charter school) — 6.3 percent

8. James Whitcomb Riley School 43 (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 6.9 percent

9. Carpe Diem – Northwest (charter school, now closed) — 7.4 percent

10. Arlington Woods School 99 (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 7.5 percent

* Kindezi Academy took over Joyce Kilmer School 69 through an innovation partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools. Although they operate as one school, the data is reported as two entities. Kindezi will get credit for the passing rates of an additional grade each year.  

Marion County high schools with the highest passing rates for both English and math

1. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (private school) — 83 percent

2. Calvary Christian School (private school) — 66.7 percent

3. Heritage Christian School (private school) — 65.6 percent

4. Cathedral High School (private school) — 62.5 percent

5. Herron High School (charter school) — 62 percent

6. Roncalli High School (private school) — 60.4 percent

7. Colonial Christian School (private school) — 58.8 percent

8. Bishop Chatard High School (private school) — 56.3 percent

9. Speedway Senior High School (School Town of Speedway) — 51.6 percent

10. Franklin Central High School (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 47.6 percent

Marion County public high schools with the highest passing rates for both English and math

1. Herron High School (charter school) — 62 percent

2. Speedway Senior High School (School Town of Speedway) — 51.6 percent

3. Franklin Central High School (Franklin Township Community School Corp.) — 47.6

4. Charles A Tindley Accelerated School (charter school) — 46.5

5. Shortridge High School (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 34.5

6. North Central High School (M S D Washington Township) — 30

7. Perry Meridian High School (Perry Township Schools) — 28.8

8. Pike High School (M S D Pike Township) — 27.5

9. Southport High School (Perry Township Schools) — 26.5

10. Lawrence North High School (M S D Lawrence Township) — 25.2

Marion County high schools with the lowest passing rates for both English and math

1. Arlington High (Indianapolis Public Schools, now closed) — 0 percent

1. Marion Academy (charter school) — 0 percent

1. Carpe Diem – Northwest (charter school, now closed) — 0 percent

4. Northwest Community High School (Indianapolis Public Schools, now closed) — 1.1 percent

5. Indianapolis Lighthouse East (charter school) — 1.4 percent

6. Broad Ripple Magnet High School for Performing Arts (Indianapolis Public Schools, now closed) — 1.5 percent

7. Indianapolis Metropolitan High School (charter school) — 1.9 percent

8. Decatur Township School for Excellence (M S D Decatur Township) — 3.8 percent

9. Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School (Indianapolis Public Schools) — 4.1 percent

10. Indiana Virtual School (charter school) — 4.4 percent

making the rounds

Tennessee’s new education chief ‘very confident’ that online testing will be smooth in April

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Tennessee's new education commissioner Penny Schwinn (second from left) met with Douglass High School students and Shelby County Schools leaders Friday.

As Tennessee’s new education commissioner wrapped up her second week on the job by visiting four schools in Shelby County, Penny Schwinn said she feels “very confident” the state has learned from its mistakes in online testing.

During the more than three-hour ride to Memphis on Friday, Schwinn said she continued to pore over documents showing evidence that the corrections the state department staff have put in place will work.

“I feel very confident that our team has looked into that,” she told reporters in a press conference after meeting with students. “They’re working with the vendor to ensure that testing is as smooth as possible this year.” Currently the state is working with Questar, who administered TNReady online last year.

She also said the state’s request for proposals from testing vendors, which is already months behind, will be released in about two weeks.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: John Bush, principal of Douglass High School; Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Education Commissioner; and Joris Ray, interim superintendent for Shelby County Schools.

“No later than that,” she said. “We hope and expect to have a vendor in place before the end of the fiscal year,” in late June.

The day Schwinn was hired, she said getting state testing right would be her first priority. Three years of major technical failures have severely damaged the trust educators and parents have in the state’s test, TNReady. It is the main measure of how schools and teachers are doing, but state lawmakers exempted districts from most testing consequences in 2018.

From Schwinn’s first day on the job: Tennessee’s new education chief wants to ‘listen and learn’ with school visits

Prior to talking with reporters, Schwinn said she heard “hard-hitting questions” from several students at Douglass High School in Memphis about what the state can do to improve education. Schwinn has said she will visit Tennessee schools throughout her tenure to ‘listen and learn’ by talking to students and educators.

Reporters were not allowed to attend the student discussion with Schwinn and some Shelby County Schools leaders.

Douglass High entered Shelby County Schools’ turnaround program, known as the iZone, in 2016 and saw high academic growth in its first year. But test scores fell this past year as the state wrestled with online malfunctions.

Timmy Becton Jr., a senior at Douglass High, said he hopes for fewer tests and more projects to demonstrate what a student has learned. Those kind of assessments, he said, can help a student connect what they are learning to their daily life.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Tennessee’s new education commissioner met with students at Douglass High School and Shelby County Schools leaders.

“We figured it would be a different way to measure and see how much knowledge a student really has on a specific subject,” he told Chalkbeat after meeting with Schwinn during a student roundtable session. “It’s a good alternative to taking tests.”

He said he was “surprised and happy” to see Schwinn actively seek student perspectives.

“I really think that’s the most important part because students are the ones going to school every day,” Becton said. “So, if you want to find a good perspective on how to solve a problem, it’s really great to talk to the people who are actively involved in it and the people who are actually experiencing these problems directly.”

The state’s annual testing window runs from April 15 to May 3.

School discipline

Michigan schools have expelled fewer students, but that may not be cause for celebration

PHOTO: Getty Images

Michigan schools have expelled far fewer students since the state enacted laws aimed at cutting back on expulsions. But an advocate who’s pushed for an end to zero-tolerance policies pointed out persistent problems and told elected state education leaders this week that, “We shouldn’t start celebrating yet.”

This is why: Peri Stone-Palmquist, executive director of the Ypsilanti-based Student Advocacy Center, told State Board of Education members that in the 18 months since the new laws took effect in 2017, expulsions have dropped 12 percent. But she’s concerned that too many school leaders don’t understand the law or are ignoring its requirements. And she believes some schools are finding other ways of kicking kids out of school without expelling them.

Michigan did away with zero-tolerance policies that had earned it a reputation for having some of the toughest disciplinary rules in the nation. In their place, lawmakers instituted new rules, such as requiring schools to consider seven factors — including a student’s age, disciplinary record, disability and seriousness of the incident — in making expulsion decisions.

“We have had districts and charters tell advocates that they would not consider the seven factors at all,” Stone-Palmquist said. Others aren’t sharing with parents and students how those seven factors were used. And she said there’s a general “lack of understanding of lesser interventions and the persistent belief that lengthy removals remain necessary.”

That’s a problem, she and others say, because of the negative consequences of kicking students out of school. Studies have shown that students kicked out of school are often missing out on an education and are more likely to get into trouble. Advocates also worry that expulsion exacerbates what they describe as a “school-to-prison” pipeline.

She said advocates are noticing that more students are receiving long suspensions, an indication that some schools are suspending students rather than expelling them. Hiding students in suspension data won’t work much longer, though. Michigan now requires schools to collect such data, which soon will be public.

Stone-Palmquist also said that some schools aren’t even going through the expulsion process, but simply referring students with discipline issues to “understaffed virtual settings.”

“Once again, the students who need the most get the least, and no one has to report it as an expulsion.”

Stone-Palmquist gave an example of a ninth-grader involved in a verbal altercation who was expelled for a long time for persistent disobedience, “despite our team lining up extensive community resources for him and despite the district never trying positive interventions with him.”

In another case, a fifth-grader was expelled for 180 days for spitting at another student who had done the same to them first. Stone-Palmquist said the seven factors weren’t considered.

“We were told at the appeal hearing that the student’s behaviors were too dangerous to consider lesser interventions.”

She and Kristin Totten, an education lawyer for the ACLU of Michigan, provided board members with statistics that some members found alarming. Totten noted that an ACLU review of data collected by the federal government shows that for every 100 students in Michigan, 38 days are lost due to suspension. In Oakland County, 26 days are lost for every 100 students. In Macomb County, it’s 35 days and in Wayne County, it’s 55 days.

One child who’s experienced trauma for years was repeatedly suspended from multiple schools. The 11-year-old has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This school year, she’s been suspended for 94 days.

“Never once were the seven factors mentioned to her mother,” Totten said.

Stone-Palmquist asked board members to consider recommendations, including developing a model student code of conduct that incorporates the new rules, partnering with the advocacy center to request an attorney general’s opinion on what districts are required to do, and expanding data collection.

Tom McMillin, a member of the state board, asked whether the state should consider financial penalties, such as withholding some state aid.

“I’m a fierce advocate for local control. But in areas where the incentives might not be there to do what’s right … I’m fine with the state stepping in,” McMillin said.

Board member Pamela Pugh said she appreciated the push for the board to “move with great speed.” She said the data and stories provided are “compelling, as well as convincing.”

Stone-Palmquist said that despite her concerns, there have been some successes.

“Districts that used to automatically expel 180 days for fights, for instance, have partnered with us to dramatically reduce those removals with great outcomes,” she said. “We know alternatives are possible and that they actually help get to the root of the problem, prevent future wrongdoing and repair the harm.”

The Detroit school district didn’t come up during the hearing. But on the same day Stone-Palmquist presented to the state board, Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti gave a presentation to his local board of education about what’s happened in the months since the district embarked on an effort to improve school culture by revising the student code of conduct, hiring deans for each school, and providing training on alternative discipline methods.

The bottom line: Vitti said that schools are booting out dramatically fewer students and greatly increasing alternative methods of discipline. In-school suspensions are up, given the push against out-of-school suspensions.

But the changes have also raised concerns. Some school staff have said the new rules are tying their hands. Vitti said it will take time for the changes to take hold, and he outlined some areas that need to improve, including more training.