News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 20, 2013

West Vigo Elementary earns an ‘A’

From bottom to top, county schools span the full grade range

TERRE HAUTE — West Vigo Elementary has gone from an “F” last year to an “A” this year under the 2013 PL 221 category placement system, district officials say.

Also, Vigo County’s three major high schools — Terre Haute North Vigo, South Vigo and West Vigo — all achieved an A grade, as well, this year.

Twenty schools in the Vigo County School Corp. received an A or B in the category placements, compared to 17 schools last year.

“We are very pleased to have more schools this year in the A and B category and we are extremely pleased to have all three of our large high schools in the A category,” said Karen Goeller, VCSC deputy superintendent. “It’s very exciting to see that kind of performance.”

The State Board of Education approved statewide grades at its meeting Friday. The grades have become increasingly important in recent years, being used to determine teacher pay, school funding and the potential for state takeover.

Goeller explained that elementary/middle schools receive a preliminary grade based on performance, or the percentage of students passing ISTEP-Plus. A school’s score can be raised or lowered based on student academic growth on ISTEP-Plus.

“Performance is the main thing, but growth can hurt you or help you,” Goeller said.

At the high school level, grades are based on percentage of 10th graders passing end-of-course assessments for English 10 and Algebra 1; graduation rates; and a college/career readiness index.

Eleven schools in the district joined the aforementioned four in the A category: (elementary) Sugar Creek Consolidated, Dixie Bee, Farrington Grove , Franklin, Fuqua, Hoosier Prairie, Lost Creek, Rio Grande, Riley, Sugar Grove and Terre Town.

Five schools are in the “B” category: Davis Park, Deming, DeVaney and Fayette elementary schools, as well as Honey Creek Middle School.

One school is in the “C” category, Ouabache Elementary.

Four schools are in the “D” category: Meadows Elementary, Otter Creek Middle School, West Vigo Middle School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

Sarah Scott Middle School is in the “F” category.

The two alternative schools, Booker T. Washington and McLean Education Center, did not receive grades.

This year, Davis Park, Franklin and Terre Town elementary schools as well as West Vigo High School all increased two letter grades. West Vigo Elementary improved four grade levels.

Goeller said West Vigo Elementary “has taken a very focused approach in the last year looking at which students did not show growth. They have looked at every student with low growth and made sure they had strong interventions in place.”

Sarah Scott, which received an “F,” “is now a priority school in terms of Title 1 and that means they are going to be monitored by the state for their progress over the upcoming year,” Goeller said. The state will make site visits.

Last year, the school had a “D.”

“Two years in a row of an “F” places a school on the continuum for state takeover, but one year does not,” she said.

Sarah Scott’s ISTEP performance has been adequate, she said, but “low growth is the problem” in both language arts and math.

The school will look at individual students who are not showing growth and what circumstances or challenges those students may face, she said. Those challenges might relate to poverty, mobility (changing residences and schools) or special needs.

The school will look at ways to address those challenges and help those students achieve growth on ISTEP.

Schools that receive a “D” are called focus schools; they are not subject to the sanctions that “F” schools are, Goeller said. Those schools must complete a report to the state and will receive a visit from the state.

Schools receiving “D”s would have received higher grades based on ISTEP performance, but they encountered a penalty for having low growth, she said.

Rex Ireland, VCSC assessment consultant, pointed out that the state sets a target schools must meet in terms of growth on language arts and math tests. If schools don’t make that target, “They dock you a point, which lowers a school by an entire letter grade, so it’s pretty severe,” he said.

For “D” schools, the focus also will be on looking at students who didn’t show growth and working with them to help them improve, Goeller said. Three middle schools had “D”s; middle schools have intervention periods during the day when staff can work with students on skills that need improvement.

“We’re making sure those interventions are the most rigorous they can be and we’re expanding the time for those students in those interventions,” Goeller said.

When the VCSC first received school letter grades, officials believed it “stood out as unusual” that several elementary and high schools improved to “A”s, while three middle schools declined to a “D” and one to an “F,” Goeller said.

The four middle schools that declined “did not make targets in terms of growth,” she said.

Ireland noted that at the high school level, scores are raised if at least 59.3 percent of students in English or 62.8 percent of students in math who did not pass the end-of-course assessment in 10th grade do so by graduation.

“All three of our high schools (North, South, and West) received bonus points in both English and math for exceeding these respective target scores. We think that speaks volumes about the efforts taking place at those schools from all stakeholders affected by the ECA graduation requirement,” he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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