Indiana State Board of Education approves school grades

2013-12-20T14:00:00Z 2014-02-11T18:39:09Z Indiana State Board of Education approves school gradesCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

Many of the region's public high schools earned an A from the Indiana Department of Education, though some earned lower grades and many of the local middle and elementary schools struggled.

The Indiana Department of Education released public and private school grades Friday during its morning board meeting. There was some discussion about small charter schools and how they were graded, as well as the appeal process for schools unhappy with their grades.

The Indianapolis charter school at the center of Indiana's grade-changing scandal dropped to an F from an A in newly released school grades.

The Christel House Academy benefited last year from grading changes made by former schools Superintendent Tony Bennett. But grades released for the 2012-13 school year showed a precipitous drop for the school founded by top GOP donor Christel DeHaan.

Locally, Lake Station Superintendent Dan DeHaven's elementary schools, Bailey and Polk, both earned an A, while Edison Jr-Sr High School earned a D.

"We were disappointed with the high school grade," he said.

"We have changed our approaches at the high school. We have embedded more credit recovery during the day so that our students don't have to come after school. We developed a structure course of study for students entering their freshmen year. We're using the state's 8-Step process at the junior high and through ninth grade. We've brought in an outside consultant to work with our English department. It's part of our professional development for teachers. We've also made a concerted effort to increase the number of dual credit courses our students are taking so our college and career readiness issue will be addressed."

Kevin Teasley, president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation, which operates 21st Century Charter School in Gary, was not happy with the D the charter school received.

"The state did not give 21st Century credit for its 95 percent grad rate and the fact that 42 percent of our graduates earned a C or better on a college course," he said. "The school should have received an A in both categories, which would have earned an overall grade of a C for the school. We appealed and have not received any explanation."

Teasley said the state used those two categories last year, but did not use them this year. "It's very disappointing given all the talk about getting it right this year," he said Friday.

Gary attorney Tony Walker, who is a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, questioned the board's D grade for the Hammond Academy of Science & Technology. Walker questioned a change being made in how the department grades small charter schools, some of which don't have a 12th grade class.

"I know for a fact that HAST didn't receive some points because they don't have a 12th grade. We need to treat all schools the same," Walker said at the meeting.

HAST Principal Sean Egan said HAST appealed the 2012 and 2013 school grades. "One of the reasons being that our strong ECA scores for the graduating class of 2014 were not included," Egan said. 

"The appeal was denied on the basis that we did not have a full high school (that is, ninth through 12th grade). Because our school was one of the very few schools in the state that was negatively impacted by the A-F grade manipulation, we continue to seek review from the DOE on that appeal.

"HAST appealed the 2013 A-F grade as well. This time, the DOE decided to use our high school scores, but only the ECA scores for the graduating class of 2015. This is contrary to the 2012 decision from the DOE, which stated that they would not use our ECA scores because we did not have a full 9-12 high school last year. Ironically, we did not have a 12th grade last year, either. So, under the prior year's logic, no high school scores should have been used," Egan said.

Egan contends he and the School Board are "thoroughly unable to comprehend the DOE's logic," and board member Walker is advocating for thorough review of the charter school's case.

Other schools' grades were mixed

It seems some middle schools in the region also had problems with the grades. Low grades included Pierce Middle School in Merrillville, D; Lake Ridge Middle School in the Lake Ridge Schools, D; Griffith Middle School, D; Hobart Middle School, D. Hobart High School earned a B.

Many Porter County schools earned A's and B's with a few exceptions. Westchester Intermediate School in the Duneland School Corp., C; Chesterton Middle School in the Duneland Corp., C.; Fegley Middle School in the Portage Township Schools, C; Central Elementary School, Portage, D; Willowcreek Middle School, C; Paul Saylor Elementary School, Portage, D; Portage High School, A; Thomas Jefferson Middle School in the Valparaiso Community Schools, C.

Portage Superintendent Ric Frataccia said administrators appealed the grade for Saylor but didn't win the appeal. He said the committee working on revising the A-F grading system has suggested revisions that are "quantum leaps" better than the current school grade system. The current plan measures students against their peers rather than against themselves.

"Therefore, this nonsense about students who may have passed but are in the lowest 25 percent will be changed," Frataccia said. "I can assure you that neither Central or Saylor elementary schools are D schools, and there is nothing about the Portage school system that is average."

EdisonLearning, which operates Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy, earned an F. The private company was appointed by the state to take over operation of the school a couple of years ago after the Gary Community School Corp. received six consecutive years of failing grades.

Charter School of the Dunes, Gary, earned an F; Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary, D; Gary Lighthouse Charter School, F; East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy, C; West Gary Lighthouse Academy, F; East Chicago Lighthouse, F; Aspire Charter Academy, Gary, D; Frankie McCullough Academy for Girls, Gary, A; Banneker Achievement Center, Gary, A; Wirt/Emerson VPA, D; St. Stanislaus School, East Chicago, F; and local Catholic high schools Bishop Noll Institute, Hammond, and Andrean High School, Merrillville, both earned an A.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz thanked Indiana educators, administrators, parents and students for their patience and countless hours of work over the past academic year. Because of problems caused by the company that administered the ISTEP, these 2012-13 school accountability grades were unfortunately delayed until this point, she said.

“Though this current model for calculating school accountability grades will be changing, the data does show that some great learning is occurring in our schools, and I want to congratulate our students for their successes," Ritz said. She said the 2013-14 school year will be the last year for the current school grade model. Ritz said the new model for school accountability will measure both student performance and growth in a way that gives educators, students and parents the needed information to address each student's academic needs.

"The new, more transparent and fair model will be fully operational for the 2014-15 school year,” Ritz said.

Associated Press writer Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

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