It’s time to (I)STEP up: Exams begin Nov. 28

Counselor: “Do your best, be done.”

Math+teachers+such+as+Mrs.+Jennifer+Hollis+prepare+their+students+for+the+upcoming+ISTEP+test.+Currently+ISTEP+is+a+graduation+requirement.+

Will Browning

Math teachers such as Mrs. Jennifer Hollis prepare their students for the upcoming ISTEP test. Currently ISTEP is a graduation requirement.

Anna Pohl, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Standardized testing, an often discussed topic for students, parents and teachers alike, has seen noticeable attention over the past several years. As the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) testing date approaches, its benefits and harms are once again discussed. 

As occur every year, rumors circulate that this is the last year for the infamous ISTEP. Vice Principal Mr. Dennis Thomas said soon, it may be true. “There’s been a little bit of fogginess overall, but we’re looking at an additional year,” he said. 

The test does provide some benefits to the school, Thomas said. The data collected from students’ results from a particular school as well as schools around the state offer important comparative evidence, allowing for a standard benchmark to compare against other schools. 

It is especially useful in measuring how the school’s students perform in vital skills and learning, Thomas said. However, the constantly changing format and content of the test is problematic in the collection of this data, he said. 

“(The benefits are) mitigated by the fact that it’s been inconsistent and it’s been changing so much over the past decade,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t give us a quality baseline to follow.” Due to the changing test, and therefore changing data, there is not much comparison available or possible to previous years’ tests. This makes linear tracking of student performance difficult through the ISTEP.

Though there are benefits for the school, the greatest benefit lies in that given to students: graduation. “The benefit is part of being able to graduate,” said Director of Counseling Mrs. Anne Katz. “Through the Class of 2022, it’s one way students can meet graduation requirements,” she said.  

Registrar and testing coordinator Ms. Erin Bethuram ‘97 said in years past students could receive merit scholarship for their performance on the exam. Now, however, it is simply a measurement of a student’s understanding of basic concepts in math and English, and an Indiana requirement to graduate. 

In order to obtain the Indiana high school diploma, students must pass the ISTEP, Thomas said. This is scheduled to change.  

“Next year’s class will graduate under Graduation Pathways,” Katz said. The state determines who qualifies, she said, but it is an alternative way to graduate without passing the ISTEP. Several qualifying alternatives include earning an academic honors diploma, earning a certain score on the SAT or ACT, or receiving a C average in three AP, IB or dual credit classes, Katz said. Detailed information to answer specific questions may be found on the Indiana Department of Education website.

This new pathway to graduation, hence the name, is aligned to the school’s own philosophy regarding education, as is exemplified through the holistic approach in Cathedral 360. “One of the things that the state has done over the last year in reviewing the accountability piece is to give additional pathways that a student could take that affirms some of the things we do here with the Cathedral 360,” Thomas said. 

This new approach provides a way by which students who may struggle in standardized testing yet are intelligent, hard working and promising can still obtain a high school diploma. “Those students would be able to take Pathways to show college and career readiness,” Thomas said. 

“The Pathways that are being established now really does affirm that wholistic approach that our school takes on,” Thomas said. Graduation Pathways recognizes that college readiness can be illustrated through more than a multiple choice test, and affirms that a student’s ability and knowledge cannot be necessarily defined by a several hour exam. 

This realization was the purpose behind Graduation Pathways, Katz said. “The goal was to make sure all students were ready to succeed in secondary school endeavors,” she said. “Instead of having to retake tests, students could spend their time working on more concrete things that are going to be helpful to them (in college),” Katz said.

Students taking the ISTEP this year are still required to pass in order to graduate and should do their best. For those students who may qualify for Graduation Pathways, it is still best to perform well on their exam. “There are more caveats (regarding Graduation Pathways),” Katz said. “If you do well on your ISTEP then you’re done, except for Cathedral graduation requirements,” she said. “Make your life easier. Do your best. Be done,” Katz said. 

Although the exam is certainly important, Bethuram said to stay relaxed. “Don’t stress about it,” she said. Standard recommendations for prior to a large test are suggested, such as eating breakfast and having quality sleep the night before the exam. “Teachers, counselors and I are always here if you have any questions,” Bethuram said.