Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

November 2, 2012

Decatur County schools receive grades from IDOE

Tess Rowing
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Earlier this week, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) released  results grading Indiana schools’ performance.

The press release also congratulated seven southeastern schools which had improved the most, including Greensburg High School which improved from an F in 2010, to an A in 2012.

“Congratulations to our community and our staff on a job well done,” said superintendent of Greensburg Community Schools (GCS), Tom Hunter. He said Greensburg schools are aiming to maintain the good grades at all three buildings.

Tammy Williams, director of curriculum for GCS said, “We’re elated about the grades.” Banners are being made to hang at the schools, and letters have been sent to GCS’ shareholders to announce the good news.

“Things don’t change just because we get that letter grade. It’s just as hard to maintain as it is to achieve,” said Williams, who stressed that everyone has to stay focused on why they work everyday.

The departments and grade levels gather to focus on success, said Williams, and to review data and make decisions based on their findings. GCS has also implemented “short cycle assessments,” which pretest student skills every four weeks to see if teachers are delivering results at state standards.

Greensburg High School (GHS) scored an F in 2010; a D in 2011; and an A in 2012, with an overall 3.7 GPA.

GHS principal, Phil Chapple, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Greensburg Junior High School (GJHS) scored A’s for three consecutive years, with an overall 4.0 GPA.

“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment from the staff, and the students as well,” said Dave Strouse, principal of GJHS.

Strouse said the staff has focused on three questions in the last few years: What do we want our students to learn? How do we know that they’ve learned, and have met the state standard? What do we do when they’re not learning?

“Our focus has been on learning and not just, ‘hey, I’ve taught it, time to move on,” said Strouse. He added that even though GJHS has received the best possible grade, the staff intends to continue improving, and get better at their jobs.

“These grades give us some validity in what we’re doing. I’m really excited and happy for the students and staff here,” said Strouse.

Greensburg Elementary School (GES) scored a C in 2010; an A in 2011; and an A in 2012, with an overall 4.0 GPA.

“We were very pleased,” said GES principal, Rock Linville, “We had a convocation that can be summed up with three words: ‘All About Learning,’ and that’s what we try to be; All about learning.”

The teachers and administrators made a concentrated effort to work together to improve student learning, said Linville. As a result, student performance continued to improve and there were a high percentage who passed the ISTEP+ exam.

The elementary school celebrated its continuing success with a school-wide ice cream party on Wednesday. The party saw over 1,000 kids in the gym and cafeteria, the biggest school-wide gathering GES has seen. If the kids continue on the path they’ve been on, there will be another party next year.

“Everybody’s working real hard. We’re happy where we are.” Linville said, adding the school’s goal is to maintain the good grade.

While Greensburg Community Schools have been busy celebrating, Decatur County Schools’ superintendent Johnny Budd, expressed some frustration at the grading system implemented.

North and South Decatur Elementary schools performed at nearly the same level, said Budd, but SDES improved significantly more than NDES. The improvement difference is what caused the discrepancy in grades, despite similar achievements in testing. South Decatur saw the state-required 25 percent improvement, while North Decatur saw a 17 percent improvement, not quite meeting state standard. North Decatur is struggling most in math and language, said Budd, but he hopes parents do not judge the quality of North Decatur based on a nearly arbitrary grading system.

“The letter grade does not give an accurate picture of how the kids are learning,” said Budd. “While we are striving to make the schools better, we are proud of all the good things going on in our schools. At every program we do, we’re going to try and get better.”

According to a press release from the IDOE, the grading system is based on the following:

“Letter grades for high schools are calculated based on performance (Algebra I and English 10 End of Course Assessments), student improvement, graduation rate, and college and career readiness indicators (such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and industry certification exams or earning college credits).

Letter grades for elementary and middle schools are based upon English/Language Arts and Math ISTEP+ performance, participation and improvement as well as student growth.”

North Decatur Junior/Senior High School (NDHS) scored a F in 2010; a C in 2011; and a B in 2012, with an overall 3.1 GPA.

NDHS principal, Gary Cook, could not be reached for comment.

South Decatur Junior/Senior High School (SDHS) scored an F in 2010; a C in 2011; and a C in 2012, with an overall 2.29 GPA.

“We’ve been working extremely hard. My staff is very dedicated,” said Jim Jameson, SDHS principal. While SDHS has seen overall improvement in the last two years, South Decatur has the second-lowest score of all the county and city schools.

“I’m glad to see that we’ve increased from an F to a C, but our staff and I aren’t satisfied. We want to continue to grow,” said Jameson

Jameson said all the credit for the improvement goes to the hard work of his staff. Teachers in the same subjects have been given common prep periods (The science teachers prep together, the history teachers are together, etc.) which gives the teachers an opportunity to communicate about student progress. All of the teachers meet once a week to discuss and track the kids. The teachers talk about how they can help individuals and tutoring, and finding areas of weakness.

“I’m very proud of the staff and the students who have taken instruction,” said Jameson, “My hat goes off to both my students and my staff.”

North Decatur Elementary School (NDES) scored an A in 2010; an A in 2011; and a C in 2012, with an overall 2.24 GPA.

NDES principal, Rob Smith, could not be reached for comment.

South Decatur Elementary School (SDES) scored a D in 2010; an A in 2011; and an A in 2012, with an overall 3.75 GPA.

SDES principal, Kara Holdsworth, could not be reached for comment, though SDES administrators expressed that they were very happy with the results.

St. Mary’s Catholic School scored an A in 2010; a B in 2011; and a B in 2012, with an overall 3.25 GPA.

“Just looking at the tests isn’t always a fair measure, we look at more than grades. This is just one test taken on one day, so we try to look at their achievement as a whole,” said Buening. St. Mary’s, like many schools, are focusing on individualized learning so that every child gets attention and the children are not lumped together.

St. Mary’s tries to accurately assess where each child needs improvement or excels, and place each child accordingly.

“We’re just really proud of our kids and the hard work our teachers have done with them,” said Buening. St. Mary’s always scores in the A or B range, Buening said, and St. Mary’s is just looking to maintain the exemplary status.

Contact: Tess Rowing 812-663-3111 x7004