Did local schools make the grade?

Four local schools, including two parochial schools, improved their state accountability grades this year, while seven others saw their grades drop.

Eight schools maintained the same grades they received a year ago.

The Indiana Department of Education released the A-F school accountability grades last week. Statewide, the 2016-17 grades show a subtle improvement from the previous year.

Almost 25 percent of Hoosier schools improved one or more letter grades and nearly 6 percent improved their letter grades to an A. Overall, 62 percent of schools in Indiana received either an A or B.

Accountability grades are based on student proficiency and growth as demonstrated on the ISTEP+ exam.

Brownstown Central High School and Brownstown Elementary School both earned a letter grade higher than 2016 with the high school going from a B to an A and the elementary increasing from a C to a B.

But Brownstown Central Middle School fell two letter grades going from a B to a D.

Chrystal Street, principal of Brownstown Elementary School, said she was pleased with the elementary’s grade.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what we did that resulted in a B, but we’re very pleased with the grade,” she said.

Brownstown Central High School Principal Joe Sheffer said he was proud of the hard work by students and teachers that resulted in the school regaining its A status, which it held from 2012-15 before dropping to a B in 2016.  In 2011, the high school received a grade of C and in 2010, it was rated a D.

Doug McClure, principal of Brownstown Central Middle School, said he is not happy with the middle school’s grade, but he doesn’t believe it reflects the effort of staff and students.

“We need to be better in taking the test and be more exhaustive in our preparation,” he said. “Familiarizing our students with the style and rigor of the test questions remains key.”

Although the grade dropped, McClure said he doesn’t believe the school has lost ground.

“In looking at our proficiency rates, we took a significant hit in math,” he said. “(English/language arts) remained static, there was no real increase or decrease.”

McClure said some of the blame on lower math scores on the ISTEP could be the result of using new textbooks during the 2016-17 school year.

“This year our approach is to use the texts as a supplemental instructional tool, not the driving force,” he said. “We are doubling our efforts to insure that the rigor of our instruction is on par with the rigor of the standardized test questions that the students will see in the spring of 2018.”

The only other schools to see increased grades this year were St. John’s Lutheran School (Sauers) which improved from an F to an A and Seymour Christian Academy which went from a D to a B.

In 2015, the State Board of Education switched to a new accountability system, which rewards a school’s growth and other career-readiness standards. This is the second year with the new system.

Last year, St. John’s appealed its failing grade. Principal Jon Baumgartel said the grade did not accurately reflect the school’s academic record because it was the first time Sauers students had taken the ISTEP+ test, therefore the school could not show growth.

For Seymour Community School Corp., most grades remained the same, the only exception being Seymour-Jackson Elementary and Seymour-Redding Elementary schools with Jackson dropping from a C to a D and Redding falling from a B to a C.

Cortland Elementary received the highest mark with an A, which it has received seven of the past eight years, followed by Emerson Elementary and Seymour High School, which both earned grades of B. Margaret R. Brown received a C and Seymour Middle School received a D.

Both Medora Elementary and Medora Junior-Senior High School received grades of D this year. For the junior-senior high school, it was a two letter grade drop from the B the school earned in 2016.

Crothersville schools saw their grades drop from a B to a C at both the elementary and the junior-senior high school.

Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction said she is glad to see improvement, but said there is much more work to be done.

“I am encouraged by the results of our current accountability grades as an indication of the great education Indiana students are receiving,” she said. “As a department we will continue to partner with stakeholders from the state level to the local community to ensure every school is successful and every student is academically prepared for the future.”