GREENFIELD — A 93 percent would sound good to many students. But the one Ruth Hittel was talking to wanted more.

It takes a 96 percent to receive an A on the grading scale at St. Michael Catholic School, where Hittel is principal, and the student talking to Hittel wanted to get there.

The principal said she sees that motivation often among students at the school, which recently received a repeat A grade from the Indiana Department of Education. Making the grade also leaves the school hopeful of being named a Four-Star School again.

Hittel said she feels such honors come from a drive among teachers, parents and students — a vision bigger than ISTEP scores, one she describes as simply a focus on good learning.

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“It’s more than just the test; it’s the commitment of the staff to push the students to achieve their very best,” she said, and students embrace that challenge. “They want more for themselves and for their future, and so they really drive themselves to do their best.”

Emily Capen, who teaches computer science to kindergartners through eighth-graders and math to fifth-graders, has seen that motivation as well. She’s always impressed that most students she’s taught math during the day also want to stay after school on Thursdays for a math club she leads.

“It’s a wonderful experience for teachers when kids are so involved and excited about learning,” Capen said.

The A grade recently announced is one of the requirements for four-star status; Hittel said other criteria, such as 85 percent of all students passing the math and English/language arts sections of ISTEP, also have been met.

In May, the state education department named St. Michael a Four Star School for the 2015-16 school year. During that school year and the 2016-17 school year, Patty Mauer was principal of the school. She is now principal of St. Patrick School in Terre Haute. Hittel said she “cannot be more thankful” to her predecessor for her work and for setting things up well for the future.

As Hittel has settled in during her first year as principal, she’s asked parents to grade the school themselves to let staff know what they’re doing well and how they can improve.

Based on that feedback, the faculty is working on strong communication, adding to a newsletter and other measures already in place and also working to offer curricula that are a good fit, whether a student needs enrichment or remediation.

Third- through eighth-graders have taken a survey to gain information about their learning styles. Hittel said that information helps staff know how to help each student show what he or she has learned: “Some need to act it out; some need to draw.”

Cheryl Hentz is the mother of a sixth-grader at St. Michael, as well as two sons who attended St. Michael and are now students at Scecina Memorial High School. She said the school is good at sharing not only academic knowledge but also faith-filled virtues and life skills for the future. She feels her older sons were well-prepared for high school.

“The students learn, in addition to the academics, also time management, organizational skills and responsibility,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

“These are the skills that will help them find success in high school, college and beyond.”

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Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at