Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 21, 2013

Decatur Schools see minor changes to accountability grades

By Paul Minnis Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG – One school in Decatur County Community Schools saw its overall grade rise slightly while another saw its overall grade drop slightly on the state’s A-F Accountability Scale.

Among all four schools, the district maintained the B that it got last year, according to data released Friday by the Indiana Department of Education. Individually, results showed:

• North Decatur Jr.-Sr. High School maintained a B.

• North Decatur Elementary School rose from a C to a B.

• South Decatur Jr.-Sr. High School maintained a C.

• South Decatur Elementary School slipped from an A to a B.

State education leaders that day also approved the grades for all other schools in the state. That includes Greensburg Community Schools, where the elementary school got an A, the junior high got a B and the senior high got a C.

The Daily News reported the Greensburg district’s scores last month after Superintendent Tom Hunter released data that was unofficial at the time. However, the superintendent felt comfortable with the data and opted to release it early.

Data under the A-F Accountability scale measures student performance and improvement on standardized tests so schools can improve. The grades have become increasingly important in recent years, being used to determine teacher pay, school funding and the potential for state takeover.

Johnny Budd, superintendent of Decatur County Community Schools, said he dislikes the A-F system, partly because it takes into account only language arts and math and disregards other subject areas that are important. The State Board of Education feels the same way and is crafting a new formula to use in the years ahead.

“The letter grade system is a snap shot,” Budd said. “A lot more goes on during the school day.”

District leaders are quick to point out the system’s shortcomings.

For example, South Decatur Elementary School’s grade reduction came from not getting a bonus point for improving in certain demographics, Associate Superintendent Michael Langevin said.

He blamed North Decatur junior high students’ overall D in language arts on computerized glitches months ago on the ISTEP exam, which he believes affected performance statewide despite the state’s claim that there was no measurable effect.

South Decatur’s overall D in Math is harder to explain.

Langevin said the district is trying to improve by prioritizing Algebra 1 curriculum so students focus more attention in areas that are most important. He said the school offers remedial support to students and gives extra training to teachers.

Despite district administrators’ dislike for the A-F system, they still consider it a tool to shore up any educational shortcomings that might help improve grades overall in 2014.

Langevin said the district overall is focusing more on literacy. For example, classrooms are emphasizing “close reading,” which is a layered approach in which students read selections quickly the first time to gain a general understanding of the material. Then, they read them again to reinforce comprehension.

“We’ve been working diligently,” Langevin said.

Contact: Paul Minnis 812-663-3111 x7401; paul.minnis@greensburgdailynews.com