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State releases school grades

The Indiana Department of Education has released its grades for schools throughout the state, rating each building on an A-F scale.

Across LaGrange County, scores were mixed, with some schools going up and others dropping.

Grades for each school by district (2012 grades in parentheses) are:

Lakeland: Lakeland High School – B (B), Parkside Elementary – C (A), Wolcott Mills – D (D), Lakeland Middle School – D (C), Lima-Brighton – B (C).

Prairie Heights: Prairie Heights Elementary – A (D), Prairie Heights Middle School – C (C), Prairie Heights High School – B (A).

Westview: Westview Jr.-Sr. High – A (A), Topeka Elementary – B (A), Westview Elementary – C (A), Meadowview Elementary – A (A), Shipshewana-Scott Elementary – C (A).

The grades are meant to give the community a sense of how each school is doing as well as a way to compare schools. Educators don’t agree that the grades are doing just that.

“The grades are held in low regard by anyone who understands statistics,” Westview Superintendent Randy Zimmerly said. “The intent of the legislature, which was probably honorable, was to give the community a look at how schools are doing.” The reality, Zimmerly said, is that the grades are not comparing schools, but using data that looks at the school by itself.

 The grades, he contends, aren’t helpful for those who want to see how a school is doing. Zimmerly suggests the best way to determine that is by taking a first-hand look at the school. “Parents, interested community members, can judge the school themselves by getting into the schools and getting involved,” he stated.

Westview’s own school board isn’t content to take the state numbers as fact and have the district doing additional, continuous assessment that gives them a more complete picture of what is going on. “We place more value on our own assessments. We can recognize patterns, positive and negative, and work on them.”

“You can’t use one standard to make a judgment on a school. The state can’t use a single data point to say what it (school grade) is,” Zimmerly said.

Another issue that comes up with the state’s grades is the age of the data. “The grade, the label, is a year in arrears. And it lasts until the test is taken again. What’s the value in that?” Zimmerly asks.

Overall, while the grades may give schools a basic indication of where as school is, or was, the information is not as useful to those doing the education. In fact, Zimmerly sums up the state’s grades, saying, “The grade isn’t worth anything.”