State releases school evaluations

15 from county improved, 7 dropped grades; some officials question accuracy

Across the county, 15 local schools earned better letter grades on the state’s measurement of how individual schools are performing.

School officials said the grades are something to celebrate, but some still question their accuracy.

For example, Franklin Community Middle School went from a C to a D this year, but also was ranked a four-star school. And Custer Baker Intermediate School in Franklin dropped to a C from a B last year, but also had some of the best growth in the nation in student scores on another standardized testing assessments schools use in addition to ISTEP, Superintendent David Clendening said.

“How do you go from four-star school to receiving Ds when the teachers you have are doing the same thing,” he said.

“That has me pondering the question: what is the validity of A-F (grades)?”

That is why Franklin schools will continue to focus on the assessments it currently uses to determine how much students are improving and growing, and look for ways to best help each student, Clendening said.

Four Clark-Pleasant Schools got a higher grade this year and only one had a lower grade, which shows that schools are moving in the right direction, assistant superintendent Cameron Rains said.

Seeing that trend is helpful, but school officials already rely on other assessments to know how to best help students, Rains said.

Part of the issue is how those grades are determined, which school officials said has been a moving target since the way those grades are figured has changed in recent years.

The grades are calculated by the state based on multiple factors, including students’ performance on ISTEP testing, growth by students from past years and the number of seniors graduating and preparing for college, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

The changes in what is being measured has continued to be a source of frustration for schools, Greenwood Schools Superintendent David DeKoninck said.

But he is happy with the grades Greenwood schools received, including both Northeast and Isom elementary schools moving from Cs to As, he said. But at the same time, both Westwood Elementary School and Greenwood Middle School went from As to Bs, he said.

School officials will look into the grades and see what can be improved upon, DeKoninck said.

“I’m still pretty darn pleased with where we are as a district and where our schools are. But at the same time, we do have areas we want to work on, do better, even at our A schools,” he said.

Several schools across the county improved their scores, and a total of 19 schools earned an A this year.

One of those schools was Indian Creek Middle School, which has made significant improvements in recent years after receiving a D in 2012, Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson Schools Superintendent Timothy Edsell said. Indian Creek High School missed an A by 3/100 of a point, he said.

Edsell credits the improvements to teachers, school officials and students. In recent years, they have tweaked their school improvement plans to put a bigger focus on monitoring student improvement, including remediation and more high ability offerings, he said.

Center Grove also has made changes in recent years to focus on student improvement, including implementing professional learning communities for teachers to work together on ways to engage students and help them learn, improving curriculum for all schools and putting even more of a focus on math and writing, assistant superintendent Jack Parker said.

This year, six of the district’s eight schools earned an A, and five had moved up a letter grade from the previous year, which is something the schools should celebrate, he said.

But they also are focusing on continuing to get better in future years, such as in math where there is room for improvement, Parker said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.