By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — After months of fights and arguments in Indianapolis, local schools have now received their grades from the Indiana Department of Education. Just like the kids who have wrapped up finals this week the final grades for the schools left some officials happy and others looking for ways to do better.
For the Barr-Reeve Schools the report card from the state was straight A’s. The middle-high school maintained its A from 2012 while the primary and elementary schools both jumped from B’s to A’s. “We are very happy and very pleased with the grades we received,” said Barr-Reeve Superintendent Travis Madison. “This reflects on just how hard our students, staff and parents have worked. You like to be recognized and we feel like this shows that hard work pays off.”
This isn’t the first time since the state began giving schools grades that Barr-Reeve has landed a straight A grade. The same thing happened in 2010. “We have traditionally had good scores,” said Madison. “We have high expectations of students. We set ourselves to do our best and that pushes us to continue to grow.”
For Washington the grades may not be quite so flashy, but the results showed improvement. Veale and North Elementaries maintained their A’s. The junior high kept its C. Griffith and Lena Dunn elementaries, and Washington High School all saw their grades improve. The high school received a B. Griffith a C and Lena Dunn a D. “We’re really excited about the improvements,” said Assistant Washington School Superintendent Paul White. “We have more to go, but this is a good start.”
The increase at the high school was the result of some specific efforts. “We’ve raised our graduation rate,” said White. “We’ve also done some things to raise our math and language arts scores. We’re still looking at some additional things in language arts to raise those scores even more.”
Getting Lena Dunn out of failing to a D score was also the result of some hard work. “Our teachers and principal Brenda Butcher should be commended,” said White. “They came across some new strategies for working with diverse student populations and in the middle of the year began implementing them. That really seemed to work well and I’m excited to see how we do next year with those programs firmly in place.”
Even in schools that did not have a grade change officials are seeing signs of improvement. “The junior high was very close to finishing with a B,” said White. “We have really improved in language arts and if we keep working on it I think we can get to that level.”
North Daviess had a mixed result in its grades. The elementary went up from a B in 2012 to an A. The junior-senior high school though fell from a A to a B. “Our elementary staff did not like the B they received last year and they really went to work to raise that grade,” said North Daviess Superintendent Bob Bell. “At the junior-senior high we had been concentrating so hard on our math, that we had a slip in language-arts at the junior high. We saw that with our ISTEP scores and as soon as we saw it the staff began to refocus on it.”
Bell says that even though the scores were pretty good the efforts are underway to do better. “An A and a B, we’ll take that,” he said, “but we’re already working hard to make that all A’s next year. We have a hard working, dedicated staff. They strive to be not just effective, but highly effective. Our kids and parents are on board with that attitude. Our language arts department is working to get all of our teachers involved in bringing those scores up.”
The grades released by the Indiana Department of Education have been part of the ongoing fight between State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz, Governor Mike Pence and the state legislature. The rift led to delays in the release of the grades and local school officials say that delay has added to their challenges. “We can glean some preliminary information from our testing,” said White, but this also delays our evaluation process for our teachers. We all want to do well. We want to be the best professionals we can be, and do the best we can for the students.”
The Times Herald attempted to talk with Washington Catholic School officials on their scores, but they did not respond. Washington Catholic saw its junior-senior high school grade remain at a C while the elementary grade rose from a B in 2012 to an A.
In the Pike County School Corporation the Otwell elementary and Pike Central High School received A’s for the second year in a row. Petersburg elementary increased from a B to an A. Winslow Elementary improved from a D to a C, and the middle school maintained a grade of C.
The Loogootee School system received mixed results. The Intermediate and elementary both went up from C’s in 2012 to A’s in 2013. Loogootee Junior-Senior High School fell from a C to a D.
Shoals Community elementary jumped from a D to a B while the high school remained at a C.
To learn more about Indiana's school grades turn to page 3.