By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Administrators and teachers at Anderson High and Highland Middle schools outlined their plans to improve student achievement by the end of this school year Tuesday night during a hearing at the Anderson Community Schools Board of Trustees meeting.
Each school has been classified as a "priority" school by the Indiana Department of Education because for two or more consecutive years they have received a “D” or “F” on annual accountability grades. A public hearing to share improvement plans is required by law.
Highland Principal Kelly Durr told board members that by May 14, the school has set a goal to improve the overall performance and pass rates in English and language arts for 75 percent of students in the sixth through eighth grades by 5 percent; and by 5 percent in the same group in math.
Students currently in the seventh grade will be the focus of special intervention in the area of English and language arts because test results show their performance is lagging. Durr said the goal will be to achieve a 7 percent increase in pass rates for those students.
The plan calls for dedicated homeroom periods to help students with areas of need, implementing more professional development programs for teachers, promoting effective use of data and forming "communities" among the school's 1,500 students.
In addition, Durr said she hopes to foster more parent involvement and hold community meetings during the school year.
Anderson High School Principal Terry Thompson said areas that need to be addressed are declining end-of-course assessments, in English and math, as well as college and career readiness skills that have declined markedly in recent evaluations.
Thompson engaged eight teacher-led teams to address such areas as school leadership, climate and culture, curriculum assessment and time management.
"Our plan is totally going to be teacher driven," Thompson told board members.
Although Tuesday's meeting was a public hearing, nobody in the audience asked any questions.
School corporations are graded by the state's office of Accountability to determine how each school district aligns with state goals in four areas of assessment: mathematics, English and language arts, college and career readiness, and graduation rates.
For 2013, ACS schools received an overall letter grade of D from the Indiana Board of Education. That letter grade was unchanged from 2012, but the district did improve on the graded scale from 1.14 to 1.76.
Anderson High School received D grades in 2012 and 2013 respectively; Highland Middle School received grades of F and D in the same period, according to state accountability data.
Interim school Superintendent Tim Edsell said earlier this week that each school is already making strides to improve by implementing strategies “I believe are going to make a positive impact on our students.”
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Dates changed Interim superintendent Tim Edsell announced two important school calendar changes: - The date of Anderson High School's graduation will be June 7, instead of the original planned date of May 27. And the last day of school will be May 29. - In addition, the Indiana State Board of Education has extended the window for taking the Indiana Statewide testing for Educational progress (ISTEP), from March 3, to March 21.