The Herald Bulletin

May 30, 2013

Three Madison County schools receive four-star rating

By Dani Palmer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — PENDLETON - You’ve probably heard of four-star hotels, but you may not be so familiar with four-star schools.

Three in Madison County earned the title this year from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), and each had to be in the top 25 percent of ISTEP scores in the state, along with having a 95 percent attendance rate, to get it.

”It’s just one of the goals you reach for and reach for,” Pendleton Heights Middle School Principal Dan Joyce said. “It’s not an easy task for a school to achieve.”

It’s Pendleton’s first year as a four-star school and Joyce said faculty took a “big leap” this year.

Just two years ago, the school received a ‘D’ rating from the IDOE’s grading system. Despite the rating, Joyce said ISTEP scores were good, but not four-star good.

This year, the school received an ‘A’ under Indiana’s new grading system. It incorporates a wider range of metrics, such as individual student growth.

The staff, Joyce said, was “willing to do what it takes to get to the next level.”

Pendleton Heights’ school improvement team took a year to look at other districts and develop pacing guides in English and math -- focusing on Indiana Academic Standards and the common core -- to help raise scores even higher.

Joyce said teachers assess the students’ strengths and weaknesses every nine weeks and hold themselves accountable. The plan is to have pace guides for all subjects next year.

In addition to the four-star rating, Joyce added, 100 percent of the middle school’s Algebra I End of Course Assessment takers passed for the second year in a row.

Lapel Elementary has now earned the title of four-star school three times; the first in 2007-08.

”It’s not the easiest thing to make,” Principal Woody Fields said, echoing Joyce’s sentiment.

What makes the rating “pretty significant” is the fact schools must compete with others in Indiana from all grade levels, he said.

It’s not just elementary school versus elementary school. It’s elementary school versus middle school versus high school.

At Lapel Elementary, Fields said it’s always been a team effort that’s lent to the school’s achievements in test scores. He said staff discuss “what each grade level has to do and has to hit” to be successful.

He noted there’s no uniform method all teachers use, but that each grade “works their magic” and does what’s best for them.

Fields said the staff tries to reach those kids who are struggling, too, and give them what they need to do well through remediation.

And the “kids take it to heart.” They know how serious the standardized tests are, he added.

Lapel High School has also been a four-star school before.

Principal Greg Granger said teachers always try to evaluate scores and see what they can do to improve them.

”There are so many pieces of the puzzle,” he said. “It truly takes a group effort.”

And community support, he added.

Nearby Shenandoah High School in Middletown and Yorktown High School also earned four-star ratings.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.