By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ELWOOD — In a complete reversal from last year’s results, Elwood Elementary led Madison County in 2013 ISTEP percentage gains with a combined math and language arts pass rate of 75.2 percent, up from 58.3 in 2012.
The 17 percent gain paints a much different picture from the year prior, when the elementary school suffered a 9 percent drop in the pass rate.
Principal Bev Groover said the improvement is a “good reward for hard work.”
“We’re just proud. The students worked so hard last year,” she said.
As did the staff, she added.
Groover attributed the improvement to the new Eagles Club where students received extra help in areas where they were struggling, along with a boost in self-confidence, and the eight-step process, a program used in multiple Madison County school districts for assessing student strengths and weaknesses.
To help keep scores moving in an upward trend, she said, the school will continue Eagles Club.
Anderson’s Tenth Street Elementary also saw a double digit gain of 14 percent with a combined math and language arts pass rate of 69.5 percent.
Last year’s county leader in percentage gain at 19 percent, Valley Grove Elementary saw a drop of 7 percent this year with a combined pass rate of 71.7 percent.
Principal Jan Koeniger said she's "not ever pleased" with a drop in student performance, but added that there were multiple factors that could have come into play, including the move of high ability students to other schools in the district and more kids to work with.
Last year, Anderson Community Schools' elementary schools picked up fourth- and fifth-graders from the intermediate buildings, which increased Valley Grove's number of test takers from 100 to about 300.
It's like comparing "apples to oranges," Koeniger said. "But that doesn't mean we're not doing what we can to help the kids."
This year, she's excited about ACS' new reading program, Benchmark Literacy, that will help provide more individualized instruction. There will also be remedial activities for those who didn't pass and continued work with the eight-step process.
"Until you reach 100 percent (passing the ISTEP), there's always room for improvement," she said.
Suffering the greatest drop in combined math and language arts scores this year was St. Ambrose Catholic School with a 62 percent pass rate, a 12 percent drop.
Principal Brad Kluesner said math is the area that hurt the school most. St. Ambrose saw a language arts pass rate of 86 percent while math stood at 62 percent.
To address the issue, he said, the school has purchased a new online math program to help tutor kids, along with new software that will be used for “zoning in on strengths and weaknesses” by assessing students times a year.
While there is work to be done, Kluesner said, ISTEP scores are “not the full picture of what’s happening” at St. Ambrose. There’s a lot of good going on, he said, and the new software will help add more accountability and support.