NEW PALESTINE — New Palestine High School is the county’s only school to earn the state department of education’s four-star designation this year.
Across the state, 238 schools received the award.
Historically, a handful of Hancock County schools are recognized each year. Two years ago, eight county schools earned the nod. Last year, that number fell to two.
Educators say the criteria for the award changes frequently, resulting in ebbs and flows in the number of schools earning the distinction.
The Indiana Department of Education has awarded Four-Star School awards for 30 years. To receive Four-Star designation, a school must receive an “A” on the state’s A-F accountability system, have excellent ISTEP pass rates, carry an overall high graduation rate (for high schools) and show success in closing achievement gaps.
“Receiving designation as a Four-Star School signifies a pursuit of academic excellence among students, educators and the administration,” Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction, wrote in a news release. “I am honored to recognize these Four-Star Schools for their hard work and dedication in preparing their students for a bright and prosperous future.”
This year marks the seventh time in eight years New Palestine High School has earned the top honor.
New Pal has historically had some of the highest graduation and ISTEP pass rates of the schools in the county.
Regularly, the district graduates more than 90 percent of its students, data shows.
High school principal Keith Fessler said he has the district’s students, staff and parents to thank for the school’s success.
The community is always supportive, he said. Parents are involved in the education process, and teachers across the district work to ensure all students are mastering grade-level concepts, Fessler said.
“It’s never our goal to be a four-star school,” he said. “It’s always our goal to be the best school we can be.”
Southern Hancock School Corp. communications director Wes Anderson said the award is a metric for how well the district is performing.
“It’s an incredible honor,” he said, “a testament to how hard our teachers and students work each and every day.”