Counselors provide ISTEP advice

First set of tests will be given Feb. 26-27

Students+in+a+math+class+work+to+solve+a+homework+problem.+The+Feb.+26+ISTEP+will+include+two+math+sections.+

Ellie Browning

Students in a math class work to solve a homework problem. The Feb. 26 ISTEP will include two math sections.

Mary Stempky, Reporter

With Christmas break now nothing more than a distant memory, it is time to re-acclimate to the numbered days of each cycle. Students now have adjusted to new teachers and a different schedule. Some subjects may now meet at different times. Some students may still be waiting to take their major major test.

However, all sophomores and several juniors soon will face a standardized test: ISTEP.

The spring ISTEP will be given over five days this semester, with the first exams on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 and the second exams on April 23, April 24 and April 25. On these five days, two-hour delays will be scheduled. Only the sophomores and juniors who are testing will arrive at 7:50 a.m. Freshmen, juniors who have passed both section of the ISTEP as well as seniors will not have to be on campus until 9:50.

In an email, counselor Mrs. Ann Katz said that all sophomores are required to take the test and juniors must take it if they did not pass it when you took it as sophomores or retook it in November and December.

Katz said that students should take the test seriously. She said that Indiana uses the test as part of the way it grades Cathedral and that a student must pass the test in order to graduate.

Both English teacher Mrs. Kathy Keyes and math teacher Mrs. Lisa Ford expressed a similar sentiment. Ford said, “(A student) can’t get a diploma in the state of Indiana unless (he or she passes ISTEP).”

Since graduation depends on passing ISTEP, a student may have concerns about preparing for the assessment.

In an email, Keyes said that the best way to prepare is to simply keep up with the course work. However, Keyes said that a teacher may have specific suggestions as how one should prepare. “The idea of (ISTEP) is to determine if (a) student (understands) what the high school courses are teaching,” Keyes said.

Ford shares this view. She also said that students should take advantage of all the extra help available to them. She also said that the computer tools seen on the exam are utilized during instruction. “(Math teachers) make a concerted effort in (their) Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry classes to use the type of technology tools that are used on the test so that (students) will be more familiar with the skills needed for the online testing,” Ford said.

An important time to remember preparation involves the night before taking the exam.

Ford said that the test is not something for which students can — or should — cram the night before the ISTEP.  Students should have taken advantage of all their resources throughout the entire year.

Katz and Keyes both agreed that test taker should rest well the night before the exam “(Students) should be sure to get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast,” Katz said.

Though long-term preparation is important, once a student is inside the testing room, he may feel anxious.

Katz said that students should try to stay focused during the exam. “If you need a break look up, but come back to the test,” she said.

Katz continued saying that students should keep working and that each day is a new one. “If (students) don’t do well on one part, there are many other chances for (students) to be successful,” Katz said.

Keyes would tell students to stay positive during the test. “If you have extra time, go back over your answers, but don’t change an answer unless you are certain that it’s wrong,” she said.

After the test is finished and results are reported to the school, counselors and teachers use scores to help improve their instruction and their students’ learning.

Katz said counselors look at the students’ scores to see if a reexamination is needed for graduation. She also said that they also work with the math and English departments.

Keyes said that the test shows how students perform in a standardized test situations. “(ISTEP) points out which student may need extra help and tutoring,” Keyes said.

Teachers also use the exam to determine help that students may need. According to Ford, the score reports teachers receive are broken down into the state standards. Ford said that the teachers can determine on which specific skills students struggled. If a teacher has a class in which a majority of students were challenged in a particular area, the teacher can focus on those skills during class.

Ford said, “If just one or two students struggled in a particular area, then that is when a student needs to see a teacher during flex or before or after school and just get a little extra practice on those section.”

About six weeks after the second part of the ISTEP is given in April, parents also will receive information that allows them to access a score report for their son or daughter. That document provides parents with specific information about academic skills on which their student may need to improve.