(UNDATED) - More than 61 percent of Indiana's schools received A's and B's Wednesday when the state handed out letter grades, but Lawrence County didn't fare that well.
A to F grades were released Wednesday morning after they were approved by the Board. They are based on ISTEP scores as well as a new formula that measures the growth in test-scores by students when measured against the past scores of their peers in other parts of the state.
Grades for Indiana schools did not change as much as expected, even though the State Board of Education made it tougher for schools to receive an "A".
The number of schools receiving a grade of "A" dropped from 47 percent to 41 percent, while the percentage of schools with a grade of F jumped slightly from 5.3 to 7.1 percent. Schools with a "B" jumped from nine-and-a-half to 20 percent, while the number of schools with a "C" dropped from 26 percent to 20 percent.
Department of Education projections released in February estimated that the number of schools receiving A's would plummet to 24 percent, and State School Superintendent Tony Bennett called the results "great for the state of Indiana."
Bennett's Democratic opponent in the Superintendent's race, Glenda Ritz, says she was surprised that the number of schools with A's was not lower. But Ritz also questioned the formula used to obtain the grades and called for an independent audit of the data. She says she is not questioning the legitimacy of the numbers, but claims to have heard from several superintendents who don't understand the data.
Only six of the 19 graded schools in Lawrence County earned such high marks.
The results were split. Mitchell schools, which received D's and one F last year, all moved up, most by two grade levels. Ten of the 14 North Lawrence schools, as well as St. Vincent dePaul Catholic School, lost at least one letter grade.
Only one county school, Dollens Elementary School, received an A. Dollens has earned A's each of the past three years. Springville Elementary and St. Vincent dePaul Catholic School received B's, after earning A's for the past two years. And Bedford North Lawrence High School moved up to a B.
In North Lawrence, Fayetteville Elementary School received an F. Receiving D's were Needmore, Heltonville, Shawswick, Lincoln and Stalker elementary schools, as well as Bedford and Oolitic middle schools.
NL Superintendent Dennis Turner applauded the "great work" of BNL staff members and students and praised the hard work of students, staff members and parents in other schools.
But he and Mark Vice, who heads the NL curriculum, raised questions about the process. Turner said NL leaders "believe that these D's and the F do not accurately portray the hard work that is happening in these schools."
One of the sticking points, they said, is the notion of improvement built into the growth model.
For example, students who scored quite high on the ISTEP-Plus can lower a school's grade if they didn't score even higher when compared to the previous year.
Combine that with what's called the "participation target" (a school's score is lowered if too many of its students are not tested) and "a school grade (could) plummet from an A to a lower grade, even D."
Mitchell High School, which received an F last year, brought home a C this year. Burris and Hatfield elementary schools, which received D's last year, got B's this year. And the junior high school moved up from a D to a C.
Superintendent Steve Phillips said the school system has stressed some of the basics, like test scores and attendance, since last year's grades came out.
He praised everyone from parents and students to school staff for the improvement.
High schools receive grades based on test scores in English/language arts and math. The formula also takes into account student improvement, graduation rate and college and career readiness.
Elementary and middle school grades are based on the ISTEP-Plus test scores and the Indiana Growth Model, which measures a student's progress during the school year.
The law requires the Indiana Board of Education to intervene in a school that has received an F for six consecutive years.
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