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Area schools see ups and downs in state grades

 

The Indiana Department of Education has released its grade card for schools across the state, and the results are mixed for LaGrange County schools.

The grades released on Wednesday are touted by the DOE as “a clear and concise assessment of how well schools are doing.” The grading system is calculated on a variety of performance areas. For high schools, this includes End of Course Assessments (ECA), student improvement, graduation rates, and college and career readiness. For elementary and middle schools, the grade encompasses performance and improvement (measured by ISTEP scores), growth and participation on tests.

Locally, Westview pulled all A’s for its schools. The junior-senior high school improved from a C grade in 2011.

PrairieHeightssaw its high school improving to an A, up from a C grade last year. The middle school received a C for 2012, the same as the previous year. The elementary was given a D, up from the F in 2011.

Lakelandsaw Parkside Elementary School receive an A for the second year in a row. The high school saw its grade jump from a D in 2011 to a B for 2012. The middle school improved from a D to a C. Lima-Brighton stayed the same at a C. Only Wolcott Mills saw a decline, from an A in 2011 to a D in 2012.

LHS Principal Eva Merkel was happy with the improved grade, noting that a lot of things have come into play to see the school’s overall improvement. One significant area of improvement has been the increase in the number of students who are graduating with at least three college credits. The state has a target of 25 percent of students graduating with either three or higher on AP tests or the three college credits. LHS had 48.8 percent of its graduates reaching those goals in 2011.

While the benefits of the school’s move to New Tech have been debated, for Merkel, the switch four years ago is like a “vaccination that kickstarted a lot of good things.” The change got a lot of discussion started between teachers, Merkel commented, which brought the traditional teaching methods in with 21st Century skills. Those changes will only continue to help the school show student improvement as the state prepares its next wave of testing that will include creative thinking, problem solving and collaborative skills.

As for the perceived decline with Wolcott Mills, Lakeland Superintendent Risa Herber noted that the change in the school’s grade comes down to three students. “The state is looking at only growth in grades 4 and 5. Wolcott Mills is our smallest elementary,” she said. Therefore, the results of three students can make a significant impact on the school’s results.

“It’s not as simple as a child’s grade card,” Herber stated. “It’s graded differently across the state.”

 

The idea from the state was to put a school’s performance into a familiar format. However, the results can be hard to interpret, especially in buildings with small student populations. At Wolcott Mills, the school has 41 students 4th and 46 in 5th grade.

“The bar is not the same for each child,” Herber said. “Therefore, it’s hard to judge where the student is growing.”

However, the district continues to “work very hard to improve and bring consistency to every building,” Herber added.

When the district as a whole is looked at, with a much larger student population, the grade is a B overall. Westview reportedly had a B grade for the district, despite all A’s for the individual buildings.

Corporation-wide, Prairie Heights also received a B. The high school’s jump by two letter grades was the bright spot for the district. “It’s the effort of a lot of people at the high school, drilling down to the issues to determine what assistance the students need,” Superintendent Alan Middleton said.

As with Lakeland, Prairie Heights saw some of the differences between grades coming down to a student or two. The elementary school, Middleton noted, was 0.1 of a point from a C grade.

AssistantHigh SchoolPrincipal Jeremy Swander attributed the increase to the remediation work the school has implemented. “We’ve done some specific remediation work in math and English,” Swander stated. “The teachers have done a great job with those efforts. It’s been a great team effort.”

The changes in how the state has been gauging student improvement meant a shift in the school’s culture and way of thinking, Middleton added. “We needed to have that remediation at the high school as some students needed to be caught up,” he said.

The school is focused on ensuring the students that move up into the next building, such as elementary to middle school, are well prepared and need less remediation.

“I feel that things are moving in the right direction,” Middleton noted.