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School appeal earns an ‘A’

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St. Peter’s Lutheran School Principal Scott Schumacher suspected something was wrong when he heard the state was giving his previously A-ranked school a B on the state’s A-F Accountability scale.

St. Peter’s is an excellent school, he said. It scored an A on the state’s first year of the program and had improved in the year since then.

So he delved into his school’s numbers after scores were tallied. He discovered a mistake and successfully appealed, giving the school just enough for an A.

“There are many good choices (of schools) for parents to send their children,” Schumacher said of local private and parochial schools. “It’s important to us that we’re recognized as an excellent school, because frankly it’s a very competitive environment.”

St. Peter’s was the only school in Bartholomew County to lobby for a better grade than what the Indiana Department of Education released Oct. 31 for the state’s public and private schools, according to the department’s website.

State officials did not return phone calls about how many schools appealed statewide or how unusual it is to do so successfully.

The state system has come under fire locally and statewide for being an unfair gauge of schools’ excellence, despite improvements the state made since the prior year. But local school officials still credit their teachers and students with helping Bartholomew County schools as a whole improve their grades significantly.

Schumacher said he appealed his school’s faulty B grade about five weeks ago. Nonetheless, it still appeared incorrectly in the grades that the state agency released last week.

The state, in computing the school’s grade, mistakenly counted the ISTEP-Plus score of one St. Peter’s student who no longer is enrolled there, Schumacher said. By taking that student’s performance out of the equation, the score rose enough to bump the Christian school up one percentage point and into the A-bracket.

Schumacher said it helped that the school kept good records to submit to the state to prove that the error occurred.

“It’s no different than hitting two free throws at the end of basketball season,” he said. “It would be terrible if the shots didn’t count even with time left and you lost the game.”

Jessica Trueblood, a social studies teacher at the school’s junior high school level, said the school never “rested on its laurels” last year, despite its first-year A under the state system.

She said the school has put a new emphasis on curriculum mapping, which examines the quality of the school’s overall curriculum to see where standards are falling short and which students fall through the cracks.

“Before curriculum mapping, I didn’t put a lot of thought into where I wanted my students to end up at the end of the year,” said Trueblood, a teacher at St. Peter’s since 2004. “Now I’m looking ahead, and that makes a difference.”

State grade numbers

Percentage of schools statewide that achieved various grades in Indiana’s A-F Accountability evaluation process:

    2011    2012

A    47.5%    41%

B    9.6%    20.1%

C    25.8%    20.4%

D    12.2%    11.6%

F    4.9%    7%


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