Testing for the first leg of ISTEP begins this week

Local students will begin taking the state’s ISTEP+ exam this week, the first round of two testing periods that may be the last for the controversial testing program.

Just a few Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. schools plan to start testing Monday, with the remainder planning to begin Tuesday, said Missy Zimmerman, BCSC testing coordinator.

The testing period for the first part of ISTEP+ opens Monday for grades 3-8 and 10, and continues until March 10, she said. The second session of ISTEP+ will be April 17 through May 5.

The first ISTEP+ exams will be taken with pencil and paper, Zimmerman said. It is still to be determined whether the second session will be on paper or on computer. Soon to follow is this year’s IRead 3 exam, which tests all third-graders on reading skills and will be administered March 6 to 10.

ISTEP+ remains Indiana’s testing program through April 30, and a selection of a new testing program is now in the hands of the Indiana Legislature, Zimmerman said.

ILEARN, which stands for Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network, would take ISTEP’s place, and is what Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, is calling an alternative approach, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

Through House Bill 1003, authored by Behning, students in grades 3 to 8 would be required to complete the statewide assessment, which for the next three years would be the same as ISTEP — just a new name. Schools would have the option to administer a benchmark assessment, paid for by the state, and would implement policies used to improve ways of gathering data and information from the results.

Few changes would be made from the current statewide test program.

While students in high school would be required to take at least one ILEARN assessment in high school in English/language arts and mathematics, the social studies test previously administered to grades 5 and 7 would be eliminated. High school students would also continue to be required to pass an End-of-Course Assessment in English, Algebra 1 and Science to graduate.

The bill has moved from the House and is now under consideration in a Senate committee.

Most local school ISTEP scores dipped slightly in 2016 from 2015 results, following statewide trends. The 2016 test was the second year that the test contained more rigorous standards and the Indiana Department of Education uses the 2015 scores as a baseline.

Statewide, 66.1 percent of students in grades 3 to 8 passed the English portion of the test, a 1.2 percentage point decrease from the year before, the results show. In the math section, 58.9 percent passed, down 2.1 percentage points. Overall, 51.6 students statewide passed both sections, a drop of 1.9 percentage points from last year.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. scores showed 56.7 percent of students passed both the English and math test sections in 2016, compared to 57.2 percent in 2015.

Only slight differences were reported on the individual tests, with 69.5 percent of students passing the English portion, compared to 68.4 percent in 2015. On the math section, 64.2 percent of students passed this year, compared to 64.9 percent in 2015.

At Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp., 51.4 percent of students passed both sections, compared to 49.6 percent in 2015.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Testing tips for families

Teachers offer several tips to their students every year as they prepare for the annual ISTEP+ standardized test. Some of the most common ones for students include:

  • Get enough sleep. While 8 hours is the generally accepted optimal amount of time, some teachers recommend 10 hours a night during ISTEP+ testing.
  • Get up with enough time to get ready for school. Feeling rushed could lead to a poorer test performance, said Missy Zimmerman, BCSC testing coordinator and a former teacher.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast. A quick snack isn’t enough brain food for a big test — you need a balanced meal to get you through the day.
  • Relax. Don’t overwork your brain with stress about the test or other things happening at school.
  • Be confident. You’ve covered all of the material on ISTEP in class before, so there won’t be anything new to surprise you.
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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.