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INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus Signature Academy Fodrea Campus went from a failing grade to most improved in one year, according to state education officials.

The school earned the greatest improvement in ISTEP+ scores of any of Indiana’s elementary schools between 2011 and 2012 and was recognized Tuesday at the Statehouse.

CSA Fodrea students’ pass rates on the English and math portions of the state-mandated standardized test increased by 30 percentage points during the 2011-12 school year compared to the 2010-11 school year.

Just last year, CSA Fodrea officials had to present an improvement plan after earning a grade of “F” under the state’s grading system, which is based mainly on standardized tests such as the ISTEP.

Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction, congratulated CSA Fodrea representatives Principal Diane Clancy, second-grade teacher Judy Lunsford and sixth-grade student Caige Comstock.

Bennett said CSA Fodrea, whose students learn by doing community-based service projects, is a good example of a school that is not “teaching to the test” — as some ISTEP critics say the test forces schools to do.

Clancy said this year’s improvement is proof that the school’s innovative approach can teach core-curriculum standards, on top of valuable communication, teamwork and critical-thinking skills. School officials have said it has been a challenge to marry project-based learning achievement with state testing requirements based in traditional education systems.

Caige, an 11-year-old student ambassador at CSA Fodrea, said learning by doing has helped him retain information better.

“It helped me because instead of just listening, I can figure out how to do it,” Caige said.

Clancy said she credits CSA Fodrea’s success to student ownership of what they are learning, the availability of technology to every student and the dedication and commitment of the school’s staff.

Lunsford said she agreed. Teachers at CSA Fodrea create real-life learning experiences for students, she said.

“Engagement is not an issue,” Lunsford said.

Clancy said the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s efforts to offer project-based learning to students from prekindergarten through 12th grade have opened up amazing learning possibilities for students here.

“This technology-rich environment provides our students with increased opportunities for research, remediation, enrichment and collaboration with students and resources beyond the boundaries of Columbus, Indiana,” Clancy said.

Officials from other schools honored Tuesday said they adopted different, yet still student-focused learning initiatives to improve performance at their schools.

“This is about finding strategies for mastery,” Bennett said.

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