The Herald Bulletin

December 20, 2013

Area schools get passing grades from state

By Randy Rendfeld
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — With some exceptions, Madison County area schools scored well Friday as letter grades were unveiled by the Indiana Department of Education.

Four of Anderson's six elementary schools received A grades. Highland Middle School and Anderson High School received D grades. That was an improvement from last year's F for Highland.

Tim Edsell, Anderson Community Schools interim superintendent, said, "This is a demonstration that we're having highly effective teachers and administrators that are making the best decisions for students and providing that instruction that we believe is making a difference."

The grades have become increasingly important in recent years. They are used to determine teacher pay, school funding and the potential for state takeover to address failing schools. Members of the State Board of Education have been crafting a new A-F grading formula.

Superintendent Bobby Fields at Frankton-Lapel Community Schools saw his schools turn in high grades except for Lapel Middle School's C grade. Last year LMS scored an A.

"If you have to determine how a school is doing, I think the letter grades are better than the old system," Fields said. "Under the old system, people didn't really know what all the categories stood for. But everybody can understand what an A, B, C, D or F is. I think it's pretty fair, really. I think they're trying to accurately determine how a school is doing."

In the Shenandoah district, Shenandoah Elementary received an A, the middle school received a C and Shenandoah High School received an A. For the middle school, it was "by far the lowest grade they've ever earned," said Superintendent Ron Green.

Green said he filed an appeal with the state. He said recent ISTEP testing had gone offline during the annual test and middle school students had to continue tests during lunch time while buses were waiting.

Green noted that letter grades measure achievement and growth. "When you score consistently 80 percentile or above, it's hard to show growth," he said. "So that is a concern that we have. We always want our students to achieve to their highest ability."

Green added that the school grading system is "as good as any system that they have had to date."

"But they have to always take into account that things happen during a child's school day that cannot be represented on a test one time per year," he said. "So do I think they are completely accurate? No, and the example I give is our middle school grade. Is there room for improvement on the way the DOE grades schools? Yes. Is there room for improvement on the education that we provide children on a daily basis? Yes. So public education can always do better for children at every level."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A-F accountability Beginning with the 2010-11 academic year, the State Board of Education changed the labels for school categories based on student performance from the terms Exemplary, Commendable, Academic Progress, Academic Watch and Academic Probation to easy-to-understand letter grades (A, B, C, D and F). Indiana's A-F model holds schools and 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, as measures of success. To find this year's results, visit http://www.doe.in.gov/accountability/f-accountability