GARY | EdisonLearning reported to the Indiana Department of Education it has made strides at Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy, though it conceded it still faces challenges.
The Indiana Department of Education appointed Tennessee-based EdisonLearning, a private management company, to manage the failing high school in 2011. The company was charged with turning the school around and implementing a strong instructional program and positive environment.
In its first year, EdisonLearning developed a comprehensive evaluation plan. In 2012, the company began to implement a four-year turnaround plan serving a little more than 600 students in grades seven through 12.
EdisonLearning reported a 9.5 percent improvement in English/language arts ISTEP-Plus scores for students in seventh and eighth grades. Those same students showed a 3.5 percent overall improvement in math on the test.
Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry told the state board it began the 2012-13 school year with 23 of 146 seniors eligible for graduation. She said an additional 41 students earned a Core 40 diploma as a result of the credit recovery program in place.
Todd McIntire, an EdisonLearning official, said school leaders are looking at school in a new way, including how the school day and teacher time is organized, a new fifth-year senior program and credit-recovery options. The new fifth-year senior program allows students who don't have enough credits to graduate to earn them through an online credit-recovery program monitored by a teacher.
However, school leaders said only 74 percent of the enrolled student body attends school. The school hired an attendance officer to work closely with school officials and the police department.
EdisonLearning also reported that 73 percent of students are below grade level, down 4 percent in fiscal year 2013. The school uses a tiered intervention plan to help students improve reading skills.
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz complimented EdisonLearning for using two reading-intervention programs. She also commended officials for submitting a detailed monthly progress report.
Gary attorney Tony Walker, who is a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, said EdisonLearning seems to be "on pace" with where state officials expected it to be after the first year, and is reporting steady progress through monthly tests.
"We didn't expect them to go from a failing school to an A school in one year," he said.
Despite the improvements, EdisonLearning officials said they continue to face challenges with student behavior.
A variety of fights and other mishaps have occurred. On Sept. 9 five juveniles ranging in age from 13 to 16 were fighting on school grounds. School officials broke up the fight, but some of the students continued to argue and fight in the office, and as a result a computer was damaged and other items were knocked off a desk.
Gary police were called, and all five juveniles were arrested and charged with battery and other charges. The teens were transported to the police station and turned over to juvenile detectives.
EdisonLearning official Vanessa Ronketto, who also serves as the school superintendent, said they have three school resource officers who work closely with the police department. She said it was important the first year to re-establish safety and learning expectations.
"While all who visit the school recognize significant improvements in just one year, we do have ongoing work in this area," Ronketto said.