Trinity Lutheran High School named Four Star school


Trinity Lutheran High School continues to rack up the state’s Four Star ratings.

The Indiana Department of Education recently named the school on the northeast side of Seymour along with 237 Hoosier schools across the state a Four Star school for the 2016-2017 school year.

It’s the fifth time in six years the school has been named to the list.

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To earn Four Star status, schools must meet certain academic requirements, including receiving an A on the state’s A-F accountability system, having high ISTEP or End of Course Assessment pass rates and high graduation rates and showing success in preparing students for college and/or the workforce.

“Receiving designation as a Four Star School signifies a pursuit of academic excellence among students, educators, and the administration,” said Jennifer McCormick, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The department of education has awarded the designation since 1988 but the criteria has changed throughout the years. Private school weren’t eligible until the 2009-2010 school year.

Trinity was the only school in Jackson County to receive the honor for the 2016-2017 school year.

Over the years, several schools in Jackson County have received the honor, including Cortland and Emerson elementary schools, Immanuel Lutheran School, Crothersville Elementary School, Brownstown Central High School and Freetown Elementary School, which closed in 2010.

Trinity Principal Ben Stellwagen said the designation is confirmation of the students’ work and the faculty’s vision and commitment throughout the school year.

“It’s affirmation on what we’re trying to accomplish here and we’re doing it well,” he said, adding while the recognition is positive, it’s not the main focus.

“Our primary goal for our school is our mission, which is educating, developing and preparing Christian servants and leaders, but we do have a responsibility to families here to offer a great Christian education and it’s nice to celebrate as a community and mark it as a job well done,” Stellwagen said.

The school has 143 students enrolled in ninth through 12th grade.

Stellwagen said there are a variety of reasons the school continues to earn honors, but it all begins with the quality of the teachers at Trinity.

“There are high expectations from teachers,” he said.

Emily Thompson, a senior at the school, agreed and said the teachers have high expectations and any teacher is willing to help even if they don’t have the student in that particular subject.

“Even if the one you’re taking the class from (isn’t available), there are others here you can go to,” she said.

Mark Shoemaker, a junior, echoed that sentiment, adding the teachers take an extra step before, during and even after school.

“If you’re struggling, they will talk to you after class and make sure you’re understanding it,” he said. “They will take longer to discuss things if the class isn’t getting it as a whole and that happens sometimes in pre-calculus.”

Classroom sizes allow for accessibility and individual approach to education, Stellwagen said, as Trinity boasts a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

“They’re available all the time and are always here to help you,” Thompson said.

The school also accepts vouchers from low-income families through the state-funded Choice Scholarship Program.

“We’re not an exclusive school and we’re not exclusive to Lutherans and we don’t exclude people based on test scores,” he said. “We consider ourselves a ministry and we welcome everyone who is willing and wanting to attend and then it’s our responsibility to meet their needs.”

Stellwagen said the school offers a full-time counselor to tailor curriculum to a student’s interests and help them accomplish academic and career goals.

A resource and special education teacher also provides assistance for students that require it.

“We’re able to meet all the students’ individual needs,” he said.

Recognizing students for academic accomplishments throughout the school year motivates them, Stellwagen said.

The school gives recognition incentives to students when they experience academic success. The school has a standard high and regular honor roll system, but has added a grade improvement indicator.

“That motivates students who are on the cusp of an honor roll, but hasn’t received recognition and are working hard and demonstrating improvement,” he said.

The list is compiled of students that raise their grade point average by half of a letter grade in a quarter.

“It’s nice to be able to recognize their efforts and it shows a marked improvement,” Stellwagen said.

Shoemaker said there’s a breakfast once a semester and it is to recognize everyone that’s doing well in school.

“I think it’s nice and helps to get some recognition for a students’ hard work,” he said.

But Stellwagen said it all comes down to students that are willing to put in the work and become well-rounded through involvement in extracurricular activities.

The school may have a small student body, but it offers 21 sports teams and 20 clubs. To offer that much, multiple students participate in multiple activities.

“To be able to do that, our students are involved in multiple things at the same time and in doing that they learn time management skills and end up being well-rounded individuals,” he said. “Student activity contributes to student success.”

Trinity currently offers 72 college credits, and 97 percent of recent graduates have graduated with a year of college credits completed, he said.

Shoemaker said he feels the student body wants to achieve academic excellence.

“I’m committed and I think most of my classmates are committed,” he said.

Thompson and Shoemaker both said they feel proud that Trinity continues to receive recognition.

“I think it’s a pretty good accomplishment,” Shoemaker said. “I think it helps keep in mind that you’re getting a really good education.”

Thompson said the teacher-student relationships are behind the success.

“There so much behind it all,” she said. “I really think it’s student-to-teacher interaction and being able to feel like these are people that you can go and talk to and they expect things of you and when you know they hold you in that respect, it makes you feel like you need to reach higher in order to fulfill the expectations here and I think that sets a good personal standard and one for the school.”

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Trinity Lutheran High School

Number of Four Star ratings from the State Department of education: Five (2016-2017, 2015-2016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014, 2011-2012)

Schools in Indiana recognized for 2016-2017: 238

Students enrolled at Trinity: 143

Student-to-teacher ratio: 13:1

Sports teams offered at Trinity: 21

Club activities offered at Trinity: 20

Criteria for Four Star rating:

Receiving an A on the state’s A-F accountability system.

High ISTEP or End of course Assessment pass rates.

High graduation rates.

Showing success in preparing students for college and/or the workforce.


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