Amid concerns from families about the 2015-2016 testing season – due to last year’s winding rocky road with the implementation of new state standards and testing applications – Indianapolis Public Schools is providing additional guidance and support to ensure a smooth ISTEP experience for students. Testing begins on February 29 for Third thru Eighth and Tenth grade students.
“Teaching to the Test” is a phrase often used to describe a classroom where instruction is heavily focused on preparing students for a standardized test. Often, adversaries of standardized assessments argue that this practice is used in many classrooms and it forces teachers to limit curricula to a fixed range of skills in order to increase student performance on the required test, leaving behind the importance of providing students with high-quality learning experiences. IPS teachers begin skill set instruction in their classrooms at the start of the school year and conduct frequent local and informal assessments to inform their lesson plans. Through data analysis, teachers are able to adjust instruction to accommodate a variety of learning styles, and they accelerate and remediate based upon individual student needs. It is important that students master skills that are aligned with grade level proficiency and required for success in future grades – it is equally important for students to engage in enriching experiences beyond what can be easily measured by a state test.
It is no longer enough to give a student a problem to solve for an answer; we now must challenge the student to outline their process to further explain how they were able to reach a solution. To align instruction with performance measures, those acquired skills are challenged in a testing environment. “We want to teach students to be thinkers, to understand the process behind solving a problem. What we’re finding is that employers want to hire young adults who can think – by adjusting our teaching methods, we aren’t teaching to a test, we are facilitating lifelong skills,” says Dr. Yvonne Stokes, IPS Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment.
As we draw closer to this year’s testing dates, it’s important for families and educators to combine their efforts to eliminate potential testing jitters. Here are a few test-taking strategies to help improve test performance and to ease the minds of our students.
Before the Test
     Get  plenty of rest the night before.
     Eat  a healthy and protein rich breakfast to boost your energy levels.
During the Test
     Ask  questions. If you are unsure of a question, raise your hand.
     Answer  questions that you know first; tackle the tough ones later.
     Check  your answers. Make sure that you haven’t skipped a question. Always proofread.

We are confident that our students and teaching staff are prepared for a successful testing season. Good luck to all of those participating in the upcoming ISTEP+!