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Schools get ready to plunge into ISTEP


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Jim Voelz, principal at Doe Creek Middle School, dresses up as ''Super ISTEP Guy,'' something he does every year during a pep rally to fire up the students for high-stakes testing. Students at Doe Creek and throughout Southern Hancock schools will begin taking ISTEP on Monday. (Kristy Deer/Daily Reporter)
Jim Voelz, principal at Doe Creek Middle School, dresses up as ''Super ISTEP Guy,'' something he does every year during a pep rally to fire up the students for high-stakes testing. Students at Doe Creek and throughout Southern Hancock schools will begin taking ISTEP on Monday. (Kristy Deer/Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD — Ready or not, high-stakes testing to measure student achievement is set to take place across the state starting next week.

The testing window opens Monday and lasts through Friday, March 21.  

All third- through eighth-grade students are scheduled to take the applied-skills assessment portion of ISTEP at some point during the three-week period. All third-graders will follow up ISTEP with IREAD-3 testing during the week of March 17-21.

While the Indiana Department of Education has extended the testing window a week because of snow days, not all county students will have an extra week of classes – and extra time to prepare – before the testing.

Southern Hancock students will start testing Monday, with IREAD testing set for March 11-13. Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock students won’t start ISTEP until the week of March 10.

Southern Hancock curriculum director Rhonda Peterson said while it would be nice to have an extra week to prepare students, she’s not concerned with the outcome.

“In reality, we should not be cramming the weeks before ISTEP anyway,” Peterson said. “That is an unsuccessful approach. If we have quality instruction, we’ll see good results.”

This year could be a little different considering students have missed so much time in the classroom – eight full days of instruction – because of weather conditions. 

McCordsville Elementary School third-grade teacher Dan Keeler said it’s been challenging preparing third-graders for both ISTEP and IREAD this year. 

“It’s been extra hard lately with all the delays and the closings,” Keeler said. “That has been kind of an issue for us definitely in the past month or two.”

However, he said, teachers have to take it all in stride and do the best they can with the time they have to make sure students are learning properly and are ready to take the tests.

“We simply just talk with them about it,” Keeler said. “We make them comfortable with it so whenever the testing day comes, they are not stressing out too much.”

Mt. Vernon schools will take advantage of the extra week and start ISTEP during the week of March 10. MV third-graders will take IREAD the following week, on Tuesday, March 18.

That’s a day that was originally scheduled for spring break but has been switched to a regular school day.

Weston Elementary School Principal Steve Burt said any time students have missed as many days as county students have this winter, it’s tough to prepare them for major testing. That’s why they will not start testing until March 10.

“We’re just trying to keep as much continuity as we can because we think that will be the best thing we can do for the children,” Burt said. “You can’t force-feed something in a short amount of time.”

Last year, educators had a week between ISTEP and IREAD testing. However, this year, Burt knows they are asking a lot of third-graders to take one test right after the other.

Eastern Hancock officials sent home letters and an IREAD item sampler for parents a few weeks ago in hopes it would help them prepare their children for the must-pass exam.

“We also give various tips to parents throughout the year,” Eastern Hancock Elementary Principal Amanda Pyle said. “We want parents and students alike to understand that the test is important, but not our only focus.”

They’ll take the applied-skills portion of ISTEP March, 11, 12 and 13 and then administer IREAD to the third-graders on March 18.

While last year’s computer issues during ISTEP testing in April are on many people’s minds, only SH students will take some of this month’s ISTEP test online. The other county schools will use paper and pencil.

“Last year, this portion of the testing could be taken online, but this year it is required unless you can prove your infrastructure is not up to par,” Peterson said. “But, we’ll only do part of the testing online. The essay portion of the testing will still be paper (and) pencil.”

Still, all district officials say they participated in a statewide stress test in February to gauge the capacity of their networks.

“We had 120 students take a practice test online at the same time to see if there were any problems on our side,” Doe Creek Middle School Principal Jim Voelz said. “Overall, it went well. But, we did the same thing last year with the same results, and then on the first day of real ISTEP testing, there was the online testing disaster.”

The second half of ISTEP, multiple choice online testing, will take place April 28 through May 9.

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