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BCSC drops two letter grades in state accountability scores

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The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. fell two letter grades in a statewide assessment during the 2012-13 school year.

The district earned a C grade with 2.97 points, down from an A in 2011-12 with 3.62 points, according to the report approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education.

The district scores were calculated using individual A-F Accountability school scores released last month, but the grades are not just a sum of school ratings.

Students can be included in the corporation grade who were not included in the school calculations. But just as he was not excited when the district earned an A a year ago, Superintendent John Quick said he was not too disappointed with the C.

“We do not put a whole lot of stock in the grades,” he said.

“It’s not something that’s part of our goal setting.”

While eight of the district’s 10 elementary school earned an A in 2011-12, five of those schools dropped in score over the past year.

Quick said that a significant impact on the corporation’s grade came from computer glitches last spring while students took ISTEP exams.

‘Wild swings’

When local schools took the standardized tests with pencil and paper in 2012, they earned the Columbus-based district an A. But the district made only a C grade the year schools moved to computerized tests and dealt with online interruptions.

“There are some pretty wild swings,” Quick said. “My guess is the corporation grade will be up again next year.”

Surrounding districts expressed the same sentiments Wednesday regarding the release.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek Superintendent Kathy Griffey said the A-F Accountability system is just one of many pieces of information the district uses to guide school improvement.

The district earned a grade of C for the second year in a row but increased its score from a 2.16 in 2011-12 to a 2.58 this year.

Plans are in place to improve curriculum and teaching, Griffey said, but they aren’t driven by scores.

“I’ve been in the profession for over 35 years, and every school has an improvement plan for assessing the specific needs for our students, as well as taking advantage of the best research,” she said. “School improvement is an integral part of every school I’ve been a part of, and a letter grade doesn’t change that.”

Decatur County Community Schools increased its score from a 2.44 to a 3.07 to earn a B, but Superintendent Johnny Budd said he will not invest too heavily in the grading system.

“I’m not going to take away from those other good things — the other subjects, the other grade levels, the other programs — to impact this,” he said.

Jennings County Schools improved its score to a 2.99, narrowly missing the threshold to earn a B. Just one student could have made the difference.

Officials could have appealed to the state to boost the grade, but Jeanie Koelmel, who oversees the district’s curriculum and instruction, said it was not worth the effort.

“We’re not putting any value in this grade, so we didn’t even waste our time,” she said. “It’s kind of a losing battle. We just went with it, and we’ll go on teaching every day and do the best we can.”

When the state legislature has essentially agreed the A-F Accountability system is flawed, it’s hard to do anything with the scores but take them with a grain of salt, Koelmel said.

Overhauling system

The current system was put in place by then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. Glenda Ritz, his successor, has vowed to overhaul the grading system to make it more transparent.

Neither Quick nor Griffey could easily explain how the state determined the grades — and that’s a problem, they said.

Daniel Altman, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, said a new accountability system is expected to go into effect for the 2014-15 school year, but districts are asked to respect current assessments and requirements until then.

“In the meantime, this is what the law requires, so this is what we’re doing,” he said.

That gives local officials time to consider what they would like to see from a new accountability system.

Budd said an ideal assessment system would take into account all subject areas. He said it does not make sense to grade a basketball player on only a bowling score and backstroke time, so it does not make sense to grade students on only math and reading.

Quick and Koelmel mentioned the same word: growth.

“The current tests are based on benchmarks and achievements,” Koelmel said. “It’s showing us how high we jump, not how much we grow.”

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