School districts tout ‘A’ grades

3 of 4 in county receive top mark in state rankings

HANCOCK COUNTY — Three of the county’s four public school corporations received top marks for student performance by the state’s department of education, newly released data show.

Southern Hancock, Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock were deemed “A” school districts, while Greenfield-Central kept the B letter grade the district received last year.

The Indiana Department of Education uses accountability grades to rate school performance. At the elementary level, ISTEP scores (how students fare on the exam and whether or not they’ve demonstrated growth from the year prior) are used to calculate the rankings.

At the high school level, the department looks at a variety of factors, including the graduation rate and how students perform on advanced placement exams.

Across Hancock County, 10 schools received a higher grade this year than in 2016; five schools dropped a letter grade, and six buildings maintained the same letter grade they received last year.

No Hancock County schools were rated D or F, data shows.

Mt. Vernon

McCordsville Elementary made the largest gains of any county school last year, jumping from a D to an A.

All but one Mt. Vernon school received higher rankings in 2016-17 compared with the previous year, data show.

Superintendent Shane Robbins said he’s proud of teachers and staff at Fortville and McCordsville who worked hard to improve. Last year, the district set up data rooms in each building to track student performance on various assessments throughout the year.

The data rooms are full of charts of graphs illustrating student performance in a way that’s not unlike how military teams map out a battle.

There’s something about seeing the names and numbers — posted to a wall instead of shining on a screen — that has helped teachers and staff quickly identify when a student isn’t understanding a concept so they can intervene and re-teach it if necessary, Robbins said.

They’ve also used e-learning program Study Island, an app that helps students master state standards through games and other methods aimed at engaging learners. Teachers have been able to use the program to help students prepare for the concepts they’ll be tested on during ISTEP and monitor their progress all year long, Robbins said.

“I’m proud of their efforts,” he said. “They’re doing an outstanding job.”

Greenfield-Central

Despite five of eight Greenfield-Central schools dropping a letter grade this year, the district maintained its B grade from last year.

Greenfield-Central High School received the district’s sole A, with the rest of the schools earning a B or C.

While district leaders are disappointed any time a school scores lower than a B, Superintendent Harold Olin said he’s optimistic steps educators are taking to help students understand the lessons they’re tested on will lead to rising grades.

Schools reserve class time to allow teachers to work individually with students who need extra help, Olin said. And across the district, teachers meet every Tuesday to share challenges and successes with one another.

In those meetings, they spend a lot of time talking with each other about how to help students who aren’t mastering concepts.

Additionally, educators and students are starting to adapt to and fully understand the changes the DOE made a few years ago to the ISTEP and the way accountability grades are assigned, Olin said.

Southern Hancock

Three Southern Hancock schools are now A-rated.

Doe Creek Middle School maintained its A from 2016, while Sugar Creek Elementary and New Palestine High School bumped from a B to an A, data shows.

The other two schools — New Palestine and Brandywine elementary schools — received a B.

District officials are proud of the accountability grades for the 2016-17 school year, superintendent Lisa Lantrip wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

“The teachers and staff have worked very hard to provide instruction that supports all learners,” she said.

New Palestine High School Principal Keith Fessler said he couldn’t be prouder of his staff and students who put in a great deal of hard work and effort to reach the A ranking.

Eastern Hancock

Eastern Hancock was the only district countywide to receive As across the board.

The elementary school bumped two letter grades from a C to an A, while the high school bumped from a B to an A.

Elementary principal Amanda Pyle said she’s excited the school returned to its A status. Historically, the school has been A-rated, and teachers and students worked hard last year to reach the top again.

“… A letter grade of an ‘A’ is a very public way to recognize their hard work and dedication,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

Teachers have adapted to the more rigorous ISTEP test put in place several years ago. Her teachers have worked hard to teach in small groups and use technology and software that allows them to provide individualized learning to students, she said.

Middle school and high school principal Dave Pfaff said although a simple letter grade can’t adequately measure all the work a school does for its students, he’s proud of students and teachers for earning an A.

With the technology now used in the classroom, schools are able to diagnose individual student weaknesses and target resources to help address their needs in both math and language arts, Pfaff said. That coupled with compassionate teachers who are dedicated to helping every student achieve has helped Eastern Hancock reach its A rating, he said.

Staff writer Kristy Deer contributed to this report.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.