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After five years of being in danger of state intervention, West Side Leadership Academy has climbed to a C from an F for the 2014-15 school year.

The Indiana State Board of Education met Tuesday morning and unanimously approved school grades. Schools had known their grades since November, but grades are not deemed official until the state BOE formally approves them.

Educators across the state were pleased last week when Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation that would hold schools harmless for their A-F accountability grade for the 2014-15 school year, as Indiana schools transitioned to more rigorous college- and career-ready standards and a more rigorous ISTEP-Plus assessment.

School grades are based largely on the state-mandated ISTEP-Plus test, which also is used in part to evaluate teachers. The test was aligned last year with new Indiana State Academic Standards. Teachers complained they had little time to adjust curriculum to the new standards before the test was administered last spring.

Area superintendents also said there were problems with the technology and length of the test. Formatting was changed due to technology-enhanced items, creating glitches, and the test, initially 12 hours long, was reduced only at the last minute after complaints from educators statewide.

While West Side is no longer in danger of state intervention, two local schools are among six that received an F for five consecutive years. A public hearing, as required by state law, will be held in the community to determine the future direction of those schools.

The two schools are Joseph Block Middle School in the School City of East Chicago and Beveridge Elementary School in the Gary Community School Corp.

State intervention can range from the mildest form, which calls for the school to revise its improvement plan, to the most severe, which calls for the state taking over the school and assigning a company to manage it.

Five years ago, the state took over Gary Roosevelt, appointing Tennessee-based EdisonLearning as the operator, and that arrangement continues.

East Chicago's Block middle has faced a number of challenges, said Dr. Youssef “Dr. Joe” Yomtoob, who became superintendent of the School City of East Chicago 18 months ago. However, he said, the climate at the school has changed dramatically since Dee-Etta Wright became principal.

“With a new leader in place in that building, the changes in the last five months have been like day and night,” Yomtoob said. “The kids are well-behaved. They are actively involved in their lessons. Tardies and suspensions have gone down.”

Yomtoob praised Wright and Assistant Principal Elsie Quiroga for their policy of walking the halls on a regular basis, and teachers for dedicating themselves to curriculum and school improvement.

Block currently has between 300 and 320 students in seventh and eighth grades, he said.

“We put the sixth grades back at their elementary schools. Students who were in fifth grade last year now continue at the elementary schools,” Yomtoob said. “That may have had a positive impact.”

The superintendent said the changes will take time to be reflected in the state’s A-F system of grading.

“I’m very, very proud of Block,” Yomtoob said. “I’m very optimistic that we can change that F to an A.”

West Side gains

Cheryl Pruitt, superintendent of the Gary Community School Corp., said West Side Leadership Academy had gains because it took a holistic approach with students.

“Mr. Terrance Little (West Side’s principal) who leads the new awesome administrative team, launched a program called SILS (Student Information Logging System). The purpose is to gather and submit real-time information about each student," she said.

"Everything from social and/or emotional challenges to academic data is documented. Based on a student’s unique needs, they’re assigned to appropriate support staff as needed."

Pruitt said West Side staff are listening to students and parents, who are on board as school partners. Pruitt said there is a better relationship among officers, students and the community. Last year, West Side had a significant decrease in student altercations and suspensions, and that's the expectation this year, she said.

Pruitt said West Side is using the restorative justice method, where administrators, school resource officers and school safety officers use proactive strategies with students.

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“There was a 40 percent increase in the number of ninth- and 10th-grade students passing mathematics on the End-of-Course Assessment," she said. "They’ve earned a B in the category of College and Career Readiness and their graduation rate is 86.6 percent. The state average is 82.8 percent.

“Data-driven professional development for the instructors ensures that rigor, relevance and relationship are implemented. They teach math in math classes and apply math in science courses and teach literacy across all content areas. Courses are integrated so students can see the relationship and the relevance,” she said.

Pruitt said West Side students can also take Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses. She said eligible college-bound seniors also can graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree if they stay on track with the Early College program at Ivy Tech Community College. They also take courses at DeVry and Calumet College, and the courses are offered free to students.

Grade changes elsewhere

While educators were worried about the ISTEP-Plus scores and school grades they were based on, some schools improved while others remained the same or dropped.

Of the 19 schools in the School City of Hammond where students in grades three through eight took the ISTEP-Plus exam, four schools earned an A, two schools earned a B, eight earned a C and five earned a D.

In the School City of Hobart, every school earned an A except Hobart Middle School, which earned a C. River Forest Middle School earned an A while the high school scored a D. All five schools in the School Town of Munster earned an A.

Almost every school in Porter County earned an A or a B except for Boone Grove Elementary in the Porter Township School Corp., which earned a C. All three schools in Hebron earned a B.

Discovery Charter School in Porter earned an A. Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, Gary Lighthouse Charter, 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Aspire Charter Academy in Gary and East Chicago Lighthouse Charter all earned a D.

East Chicago Urban Enterprise School earned an A, and Hammond Academy of Science and Technology earned a B.

Charter School of the Dunes earned an F. That charter school is authorized by Calumet College of St. Joseph after it lost its charter though the Office of Charter Schools at Ball State University.

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School grades for public and charter schools in NWI

This chart shows the grades for the 2014-15 school year for public and charter schools in Northwest Indiana.

CORPORATION NAME SCHOOL NAME 2015 HOLD HARMLESS
Hanover Community School Corp Jane Ball Elementary School A
Hanover Community School Corp Lincoln Elementary School A
Hanover Community School Corp Hanover Central Middle School A
Hanover Community School Corp Hanover Central High Sch A
River Forest Community Sch Corp River Forest High School D
River Forest Community Sch Corp Henry S Evans Elementary School A
River Forest Community Sch Corp River Forest Middle School A
River Forest Community Sch Corp John I Meister Elementary School A
Merrillville Community School Merrillville High Sch A
Merrillville Community School Pierce Middle School D
Merrillville Community School Merrillville Intermediate School C
Merrillville Community School Henry P Fieler Elem Sch C
Merrillville Community School Homer Iddings Elem Sch A
Merrillville Community School Edgar L Miller Elem Sch B
Merrillville Community School John Wood Elementary School A
Merrillville Community School Jonas E Salk Elem Sch A
Lake Central School Corp Michael Grimmer Middle School A
Lake Central School Corp Lake Central High School A
Lake Central School Corp Kolling Elementary School A
Lake Central School Corp Hal E Clark Middle School A
Lake Central School Corp George Bibich Elementary Sch A
Lake Central School Corp James H Watson Elem Sch A
Lake Central School Corp Kahler Middle School B
Lake Central School Corp Protsman Elementary School B
Lake Central School Corp Homan Elementary School A
Lake Central School Corp Peifer Elementary School B
Tri-Creek School Corporation Oak Hill Elementary School A
Tri-Creek School Corporation Lake Prairie Elementary School C
Tri-Creek School Corporation Three Creeks Elem School C
Tri-Creek School Corporation Lowell Middle School A
Tri-Creek School Corporation Lowell Senior High School A
Lake Ridge New Tech Schools Calumet New Tech High School C
Lake Ridge New Tech Schools Longfellow New Tech Elementary Sch A
Lake Ridge New Tech Schools Hosford Park New Tech Elementary D
Lake Ridge New Tech Schools Lake Ridge New Tech Middle School C
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Robert Taft Middle School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Douglas MacArthur Elem School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Dwight D Eisenhower Elem School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Winfield Elementary School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Crown Point High School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Lake Street Elementary School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Solon Robinson Elementary School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Jerry Ross Elementary School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Timothy Ball Elementary School A
Crown Point Community Sch Corp Colonel John Wheeler Middle School A
School City of East Chicago East Chicago Central High School C
School City of East Chicago Carrie Gosch Elementary School A
School City of East Chicago Benjamin Harrison Elementary Sch B
School City of East Chicago Abraham Lincoln Elementary School A
School City of East Chicago William McKinley Elementary School A
School City of East Chicago George Washington Elementary Sch A
School City of East Chicago Joseph Block Middle School F
School City of East Chicago West Side Middle School F
Lake Station Community Schools Thomas A Edison Jr-Sr HS B
Lake Station Community Schools Alexander Hamilton Elementary Sch B
Lake Station Community Schools Virgil I Bailey Elementary School A
Lake Station Community Schools Carl J Polk Elementary School A
Gary Community School Corp Benjamin Banneker Achievement Ctr A
Gary Community School Corp Beveridge Elementary School F
Gary Community School Corp Dr Bernard C Watson Acad for Boys C
Gary Community School Corp Frankie W McCullough Acad for Girl A
Gary Community School Corp Jefferson Elementary School F
Gary Community School Corp Bailly Preparatory Academy B
Gary Community School Corp New Tech Innovative Institute F
Gary Community School Corp Jacques Marquette Elem School F
Gary Community School Corp Dunbar-Pulaski Academic & Career F
Gary Community School Corp Glen Park Acad for Excel in Lrn D
Gary Community School Corp West Side Leadership Academy C
Gary Community School Corp Wm A Wirt/Emerson VPA C
Gary Community School Corp Daniel Hale Williams Elem Sch A
Griffith Public Schools Beiriger Elementary School A
Griffith Public Schools Griffith Senior High School B
Griffith Public Schools Griffith Middle School A
Griffith Public Schools Eldon Ready Elementary School B
Griffith Public Schools Elsie Wadsworth Elem Sch B
School City of Hammond George Rogers Clark Md/HS D
School City of Hammond Donald E Gavit Middle/High School C
School City of Hammond Hammond High School C
School City of Hammond Morton Senior High School C
School City of Hammond Joseph Hess Elementary School D
School City of Hammond Henry W Eggers Elem/Middle School C
School City of Hammond Charles N Scott Middle School C
School City of Hammond Columbia Elementary School A
School City of Hammond Thomas A Edison Elementary School B
School City of Hammond Benjamin Franklin Elementary Sch C
School City of Hammond Warren G Harding Elementary School D
School City of Hammond Washington Irving Elementary Sch D
School City of Hammond Thomas Jefferson Elementary School B
School City of Hammond Kenwood Elementary School A
School City of Hammond Lafayette Elementary School A
School City of Hammond Abraham Lincoln Elementary School A
School City of Hammond Maywood Elementary School C
School City of Hammond Morton Elementary School C
School City of Hammond Lew Wallace Elementary School C
School City of Hammond Frank O'Bannon Elementary School D
School Town of Highland Highland High School A
School Town of Highland Highland Middle School A
School Town of Highland Judith Morton Johnston Elem A
School Town of Highland Mildred Merkley Elem School A
School Town of Highland Southridge Elementary School A
School Town of Highland Allen J Warren Elem Sch B
School City of Hobart Hobart High School A
School City of Hobart Hobart Middle School C
School City of Hobart The Early Lrn Cntr at George Earle A
School City of Hobart Liberty Elementary School A
School City of Hobart Ridge View Elementary School A
School City of Hobart Joan Martin Elementary School A
School Town of Munster Munster High School A
School Town of Munster Wilbur Wright Middle School A
School Town of Munster James B Eads Elementary School A
School Town of Munster Ernest R Elliott Elementary School A
School Town of Munster Frank H Hammond Elementary School A
School City of Whiting Whiting High School A
School City of Whiting Whiting Middle School B
School City of Whiting Nathan Hale Elementary School C
M S D Boone Township Hebron High School B
M S D Boone Township Hebron Middle School B
M S D Boone Township Hebron Elementary School B
Duneland School Corporation Jackson Elementary School A
Duneland School Corporation Brummitt Elementary School A
Duneland School Corporation Liberty Intermediate School A
Duneland School Corporation Liberty Elementary School A
Duneland School Corporation Chesterton Senior High School A
Duneland School Corporation Westchester Intermediate School A
Duneland School Corporation Bailly Elementary School A
Duneland School Corporation Chesterton Middle School A
Duneland School Corporation Newton Yost Elementary School A
East Porter County School Corp Morgan Township Middle/High School A
East Porter County School Corp Morgan Township Elementary School A
East Porter County School Corp Kouts Middle/High School A
East Porter County School Corp Kouts Elementary School A
East Porter County School Corp Washington Twp Middle/High School A
East Porter County School Corp Washington Twp Elementary School A
Porter Township School Corp Boone Grove Elementary School C
Porter Township School Corp Boone Grove High School A
Porter Township School Corp Boone Grove Middle School B
Porter Township School Corp Porter Lakes Elementary School A
Union Township School Corp Wheeler High School A
Union Township School Corp Union Township Middle Sch B
Union Township School Corp Union Center Elementary Sch A
Union Township School Corp John Simatovich Elem Sch A
Portage Township Schools Portage High School A
Portage Township Schools Wallace Aylesworth Elementary A
Portage Township Schools William Fegely Middle School A
Portage Township Schools Crisman Elementary School A
Portage Township Schools Central Elementary School A
Portage Township Schools Ethel R Jones Elementary School A
Portage Township Schools Willowcreek Middle School B
Portage Township Schools Rowena Kyle Elementary School A
Portage Township Schools Paul Saylor Elementary School A
Portage Township Schools George L Myers Elementary School A
Portage Township Schools South Haven Elementary School A
Valparaiso Community Schools Valparaiso High School A
Valparaiso Community Schools Benjamin Franklin Mid Sch B
Valparaiso Community Schools Thomas Jefferson Middle Sch B
Valparaiso Community Schools Thomas Jefferson Elem Sch A
Valparaiso Community Schools Central Elementary School A
Valparaiso Community Schools Flint Lake Elementary Sch B
Valparaiso Community Schools Cooks Corners Elementary School A
Valparaiso Community Schools Hayes Leonard Elementary Sch A
Valparaiso Community Schools Memorial Elementary School A
Valparaiso Community Schools Northview Elementary School A
Valparaiso Community Schools Parkview Elementary School A
Hammond Academy of Science & Tech Hammond Academy of Science & Tech B
Aspire Charter Academy Aspire Charter Academy D
East Chicago Lighthouse Charter East Chicago Lighthouse D
Gary Lighthouse Charter School Gary Lighthouse Charter School D
21st Century Charter Sch of Gary 21st Century Charter Sch of Gary D
East Chicago Urban Enterprise Acad East Chicago Urban Enterprise Acad A
Thea Bowman Leadership Academy Thea Bowman Leadership Academy D
Charter School of the Dunes Charter School of the Dunes F
Edison Learning Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt Car & Tech Acad F
Discovery Charter School Discovery Charter School A

School grades for private schools in NWI

This chart shows the grades for the 2014-15 school year for private schools in Northwest Indiana.

CORPORATION NAME SCHOOL NAME 2015 HOLD HARMLESS
Diocese of Gary Aquinas School at St Andrew's A
Diocese of Gary Andrean High School A
Diocese of Gary Saint Michael School A
Diocese of Gary Saint John Evangelist School A
Diocese of Gary Saint Mary Catholic Comm School A
Diocese of Gary St Stanislaus School B
Diocese of Gary Saint Mary School A
Diocese of Gary Saint Casimir School A
Diocese of Gary Saint John Bosco School C
Diocese of Gary Saint John The Baptist School A
Diocese of Gary Bishop Noll Institute A
Diocese of Gary Our Lady Of Grace School A
Diocese of Gary Saint Thomas More School A
Diocese of Gary Notre Dame Elementary School A
Diocese of Gary Queen Of All Saints School C
Diocese of Gary Saint Stanislaus Kostka School C
Diocese of Gary Marquette Catholic High School A
Diocese of Gary Saint Patrick School A
Diocese of Gary Nativity of Our Savior School A
Diocese of Gary Saint Paul Catholic School A
Lutheran Schools of Indiana Trinity Lutheran School A
Lutheran Schools of Indiana Trinity Lutheran School A
Lutheran Schools of Indiana St Paul's Lutheran School B
Independent Non-Public Schools Ambassador Christian Academy C
Independent Non-Public Schools Crown Point Christian Sch B
Independent Non-Public Schools Highland Christian School C
Independent Non-Public Schools Victory Christian Academy A
Lutheran Schools of Indiana Immanuel Lutheran School A

Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.