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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 05, 2017 1:00 am

City schools improve grade with state

Cornerstone College Prep turns F into a B

ASHLEY SLOBODA and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

The number of public schools with top marks has more than doubled in Allen County, according to the annual A to F rankings the State Board of Education approved Wednesday.

Each of the four local public districts increased the number of A schools in the 2016-17 academic year, bringing the total to 18. In the previous year, only eight schools – two per district – received the highest mark.

Statewide, nearly 30 percent of schools received A's.

Last year, 509 schools were given A's. That number jumped to 620 this year. Most schools continue to be in the B and C range.

Nearly 15 percent of the number of schools statewide received D's or F's. The number of D and F schools increased from 303 last year to 314 this year.

In all, 510 schools – or nearly 25 percent – increased by one or more letter grade in the 2016-17 school year while 1,060 remained the same and 477 dropped.

This data includes traditional public and charter schools as well as private schools that take the ISTEP+ test, such as those that receive vouchers.

“I am encouraged by the results of our current accountability grades as an indication of the great education Indiana students are receiving,” said Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of public instruction. “Our work, however, is not finished. As a department we will continue to partner with stakeholders from the state level to the local community to ensure every school is successful and every student is academically prepared for the future.”

Lawmakers require each school receive an accountability grade every year. The biggest factor is performance on the standardized test, though graduation rate and a few other data points are included.

This is the second year for new metrics for Indiana's student-centered accountability system. More than 50 schools – including Maple Creek Middle School in Northwest Allen County Schools and New Haven Middle School in East Allen County Schools – have appeals pending. Their accountability grades were not released.

Cornerstone College Prep School on Harris Road had one of the biggest jumps. It saw its grade shoot from an F to a B after solid ISTEP+ gains.

“The newly released grade speaks for itself, the capabilities of the students, the dedication of the parents, the commitment of the school, and the legacy that it's left on the colleges and universities throughout this nation by the 99 percent who graduate from Cornerstone Prep and matriculate into post-secondary education,” Superintendent Oscar Underwood said in a statement.

Locally, Fort Wayne Community Schools had five A schools: Whitney Young Early Childhood Center and Weisser Park, Croninger, Holland and Shambaugh elementary schools.

But the district also gained three F schools for a total of six – Kekionga Middle School and Abbett, Bloomingdale, Forest Park, Haley and Indian Village elementary schools.

Superintendent Wendy Robinson said the grades provide no insight about school performance.

“Like the state's academic standards and ISTEP+, how letter grades are calculated has fluctuated over the years – sometimes giving more weight to benchmark achievement and sometimes giving more weight to growth,” she said in a statement.

“We will continue to focus on what we do best, which is provide high quality instruction to each individual student every single day. Over the next two months, we will be asking the community to provide feedback on what makes a successful school, and, in particular, what FWCS is doing right and where FWCS needs to improve.”

None of the Southwest Allen County Schools scored below a C. Six of its nine schools received an A: Homestead High School; Summit and Woodside middle schools; and Aboite, Lafayette Meadows and Deer Ridge elementary schools.

Northwest Allen County Schools received all A's and B's – bringing up two C's from the year before. Carroll High School and two elementary schools – Oak View and Eel River – received A's.

Like the ISTEP+ scores, Superintendent Chris Himsel described the accountability grades as irrelevant and unimportant relative to gauging student performance. The district, which serves more than 7,300 students, focuses on meeting the children's learning needs so they can become contributing members of the community, he said.

At EACS, one school –Paul Harding Junior High – got an F. Four received A's – Leo Junior-Senior High School, Leo Elementary School, Cedarville Elementary School and East Allen University, which received no grade in 2015-16 after the district petitioned its initial failing grade.