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William Tell earns A in state ranking

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Perry Central, Cannelton earn Cs

By VINCE LUECKE
Editor

PERRY COUNTY – More than 61 percent of Indiana’s schools received A or B letter grades for the 2011-12 school year as part of a school accountability ranking. Locally, William Tell Elementary School earned an A while Tell City Junior-Senior High School earned a B ranking. Both schools improved their standings by one letter grade over last year.

Perry Central Schools received C rankings, as did Cannelton City Schools.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said 40.9 percent of schools earned As, 20.1 percent of schools earned Bs, and 20.3 percent of schools earned Cs. Only 18.6 percent of schools earned D or F grades, similar to last year’s percentage and lower than in the 2009-10 school year. This year, 207 schools received As for the first time.

“These fair and comprehensive measures of school performance demonstrate that school leaders and teachers are focusing on the skills our students need to succeed in their academic and professional careers,” Bennett said. “The results of our new approach to grading schools are already making a measurable difference in student performance, and Indiana’s educators should be celebrated for their hard work and success.”

Improved Grades for Tell City-Troy Township Schools

Improved ISTEP scores and graduation rates helped Tell City-Troy Township Schools improve their letter grades for 2012. William Tell Elementary School earned an A, up from a B in 2011.

Principal Laura Noble said the accomplishment is a credit to careful planning, setting high goals and the hard work of educators.

“I truly believe this “A” is the result of high expectations,” Noble said. “Our staff members work so hard, and we are not satisfied with our students simply passing the test. We want high growth for all students. We have strengthened our curriculum, and it shows by being awarded an “A” two of the last three years.”

Noble said every staff member, parent and student contributed.

“I specifically thank our teachers, including those who retired, and all staff members for their hard work and dedication. We are all determined to help each child reach his or her potential,” she said.

Tell City Junior-Senior High School earned a B, up from a C in 2011. The News reported this summer that both schools saw dramatic improvements in ISTEP scores. Principal Brad Ramsey said the better scores reflected the commitment of teachers to everyday excellence in the classroom and promoting remediation to students who need extra attention.

Cannelton, Perry Central Earn Average Grade

Cannelton Principal Roger Fisher said Friday the C received by that city’s school system “is not a bad grade,” but he hoped to improve it to an A or B.

Formerly the superintendent for Springs Valley Community Schools, Fisher was hired out of retirement in April, so the Cannelton City Schools grade, based on last year’s test scores and other factors, was one he “inherited.”

“A lot of schools had C’s,” he noted. “That’s something we’d like to improve on.”

School systems lack control over some of the grading components, like the amount of improvement they make, he noted. A school that starts out with a low rating, for example, has more opportunity to improve than one rated highly in the first place.

Fisher said he looked into and worked on the Cannelton school-improvement plan even before took on his position, and expressed frustration that it was a component of the C grade on which he received no feedback from state education officials.

Adding to an incomplete picture for Cannelton school, Fisher added, is the fact that achievement is reported as one grade for elementary and secondary levels. He pointed out that Cannelton’s elementary students have “done an excellent job” while students in higher grades have fared poorly.

While the Indiana Department of Education reports Cannelton’s overall passing rate for the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress was just below 70 percent in the 2011-12 academic year, that was a fourth year of improving scores. Information released with this year’s results showed Cannelton students achieving a C last year, as well, up from an F the year before.

The biggest area needing improvement, according to Fisher and the Education Department, is math, in which fewer than a quarter of students passed the Algebra 1 end-of-course assessment in the 2010-11 school year. That was compared to a 72.4-percent passing rate statewide and a drop from 35 percent Cannelton students achieved the previous year.

The district fared better than the statewide average in its graduation rate last year with a rate over 90 percent.

Perry Central saw its letter grades fall this year. The elementary received a C, as did the high school. The decline was the greatest in the elementary school, which received an A last year. The high school’s B ranking was one letter grade lower than last year.

Schools Superintendent Mary Roberson said the school district was impacted by declines in year-over-year performance in the junior high. While not making excuses for this year’s grades, Roberson said the grading system’s criteria make yearly swings likely.

Like most schools, Perry Central has worked to provide remediation for students whose test scores lag those of others. New reading programs and notebook computers that students take home are some of the steps the school has taken to promote student achievement.

“We aren’t pleased with the grades and we will work to do better,” she said.

The grades could be brought up in tonight’s meeting of the school board.

Statewide Data

Twenty-eight Hoosier schools receiving Fs for the 2010-11 school year earned Cs or higher this year; eight of those schools each moved from an F to an A. Overall, 43 schools moved up at least three letter grades. Since 2009, the Indiana Department of Education has increased support for struggling schools, dedicating almost $128 million to low- performing schools to help them implement dramatic and comprehensive improvement plans. 

This year, new metrics making use of the latest advances in measuring student academic performance were used to calculate school grades. At the elementary and middle-school level, the Indiana Growth Model factored heavily in to the scores of many schools demonstrating progress toward closing the achievement gap or strong overall academic growth. At the high school level, college and career readiness indicators, such as Advanced Placement success and industry certifications, factored in to the grades.

The U.S. Department of Education granted Indiana a waiver for increased flexibility from certain provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act based on the quality of IDOE’s application, which included these new accountability metrics. This waiver allowed Indiana to remove the Adequate Yearly Progress cap that kept many successful schools at the C level year after year.

Indiana’s A through F Accountability Model

Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, the state Board of Education changed labels for school categories based on student performance from the terms Exemplary Progress, Commendable Progress, Academic Progress, Academic Watch and Academic Probation to easy-to-understand letter grades A, B, C, D and F. The A through F labels have improved transparency by allowing parents and community members to better recognize how Indiana schools are performing.

Following the move to A through F letter grades, the state board also adopted a new methodology for determining grades for schools and school corporations. This new methodology holds schools and school corporations to higher standards and provides a more accurate picture of their performance by incorporating student academic growth and graduation rates as well as college and career readiness indicators.

Letter grades for high schools are calculated based on performance on Algebra 1 and English 10 end of course assessments, student improvement, graduation rate, and college and career readiness indicators such as advanced-placement courses, International Baccalaureate and industry certification exams or earning college credits.

Letter grades for elementary and middle schools are based upon English-language arts and math ISTEP performance, participation and improvement as well as student growth.

Editor’s Note: Statewide data for this story was provided through a news release from the Indiana Department of Education. Managing Editor Kevin Koelling contributed to this story.