Are Children Learning

Test yourself: Practice high school end-of-course-exams now available

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Indiana’s high school end-of-course exams — which students must pass in English and Algebra to graduate — have mostly been untouched by the hot debate over new ISTEP exams and testing length for third- through eighth-graders.

But ninth grade Algebra and 10th grade English exams are changing too. Just not as much as ISTEP.

Changes to the high school tests also stem from Indiana’s adoption of new academic standards last year, which are designed to raise expectations for what kids should learn.

Besides tougher questions, the exams will also include “technology-enhanced” questions that are designed to use more advanced testing technology to measure what students know. No longer will the online tests just present multiple-choice questions that require clicking one answer. They will ask students to do more — manipulate graphs, choose words to justify answers and choose more answers at one time, for example.

Try them out if you like, but we went ahead and did some for you.

For some questions, the process of answering might look familiar: students are asked to choose an answer from a list, as with multiple choice exams. What’s different is they might be asked to choose more than one answer.

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On questions, students can use a red “X” tool to eliminate answers, as shown above. The tools are lined up at the top of the screen. Others include a highlighter and a reference sheet with some definitions and algebraic equations.

Students also will have to use charts to prove they understand the difference between terms, such as in this example testing if they understand the difference between causation, data that shows one action causes another, and correlation, which simply shows two actions are connected but one might not cause the other.

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Any configuration of boxes can be clicked, but there is just one right answer.

The test also will have fill-in-the-blank options, requiring students to complete a statement so that it reads true. Visuals, as seen here, could be part of such questions.

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The most complicated sample question asks students to graph equations on the screen. To get the answer, students have to first solve each equation, then show the answer on the graph using the correct lines and points. Placing the points can be a little tricky, but clicking a line button automatically connects two points — no freehand lines need to be drawn.

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On the English test, the sample questions ask students to analyze readings given before giving answers. Here, again, they can sometimes choose more than one potentially correct answer. The highlighter tool is designed to offer a helpful way to annotate the passage to make answering questions easier.

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And finally, questions might have more than one part, where students must reference specific parts of the text to get the correct answer.

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Students have options on the first part of the exam to use calculators, both digital and physical (but not cellphones). Scratch paper might be needed for Algebra questions that involve solving equations.

For more information about the exams, view resources on the Indiana Department of Education’s website.

ASD scores

In Tennessee’s turnaround district, 9 in 10 young students fall short on their first TNReady exams

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Nine out of 10 of elementary- and middle-school students in Tennessee’s turnaround district aren’t scoring on grade level in English and math, according to test score data released Thursday.

The news is unsurprising: The Achievement School District oversees 32 of the state’s lowest-performing schools. But it offers yet another piece of evidence that the turnaround initiative has fallen far short of its ambitious original goal of vaulting struggling schools to success.

Around 5,300 students in grades 3-8 in ASD schools took the new, harder state exam, TNReady, last spring. Here’s how many scored “below” or “approaching,” meaning they did not meet the state’s standards:

  • 91.8 percent of students in English language arts;
  • 91.5 percent in math;
  • 77.9 percent in science.

View scores for all ASD schools in our spreadsheet

In all cases, ASD schools’ scores fell short of state averages, which were all lower than in the past because of the new exam’s higher standards. About 66 percent of students statewide weren’t on grade level in English language arts, 62 percent weren’t on grade level in math, and 41 percent fell short in science.

ASD schools also performed slightly worse, on average, than the 15 elementary and middle schools in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, the district’s own initiative for low-performing schools. On average, about 89 percent of iZone students in 3-8 weren’t on grade level in English; 84 percent fell short of the state’s standards in math.

The last time that elementary and middle schools across the state received test scores, in 2015, ASD schools posted scores showing faster-than-average improvement. (Last year’s tests for grades 3-8 were canceled because of technical problems.)

The low scores released today suggest that the ASD’s successes with TCAP, the 2015 exam, did not carry over to the higher standards of TNReady.

But Verna Ruffin, the district’s new chief of academics, said the scores set a new bar for future growth and warned against comparing them to previous results.

“TNReady has more challenging questions and is based on a different, more rigorous set of expectations developed by Tennessee educators,” Ruffin said in a statement. “For the Achievement School District, this means that we will use this new baseline data to inform instructional practices and strategically meet the needs of our students and staff as we acknowledge the areas of strength and those areas for improvement.”

Some ASD schools broke the mold and posted some strong results. Humes Preparatory Middle School, for example, had nearly half of students meet or exceed the state’s standards in science, although only 7 percent of students in math and 12 percent in reading were on grade level.

Thursday’s score release also included individual high school level scores. View scores for individual schools throughout the state as part of our spreadsheet here.

Are Children Learning

School-by-school TNReady scores for 2017 are out now. See how your school performed

PHOTO: Zondra Williams/Shelby County Schools
Students at Wells Station Elementary School in Memphis hold a pep rally before the launch of state tests, which took place between April 17 and May 5 across Tennessee.

Nearly six months after Tennessee students sat down for their end-of-year exams, all of the scores are now out. State officials released the final installment Thursday, offering up detailed information about scores for each school in the state.

Only about a third of students met the state’s English standards, and performance in math was not much better, according to scores released in August.

The new data illuminates how each school fared in the ongoing shift to higher standards. Statewide, scores for students in grades 3-8, the first since last year’s TNReady exam was canceled amid technical difficulties, were lower than in the past. Scores also remained low in the second year of high school tests.

“These results show us both where we can learn from schools that are excelling and where we have specific schools or student groups that need better support to help them achieve success – so they graduate from high school with the ability to choose their path in life,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.

Did some schools prepare teachers and students better for the new state standards, which are similar to the Common Core? Was Memphis’s score drop distributed evenly across the city’s schools? We’ll be looking at the data today to try to answer those questions.

Check out all of the scores in our spreadsheet or on the state website and add your questions and insights in the comments.