All county schools get high marks as State DOE releases ‘grades’

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The Indiana Department of Education has released its ‘grades’ for schools around the state for the 2013-2014 school year, and one may say that Switzerland County’s grades earned it a spot on the Honor Roll.

Three county schools: Switzerland County Elementary, Jeff-Craig Elementary, and Switzerland County Middle School all earned ‘A’ grades by the IDOE; while Switzerland County High School again earned a ‘C’ from the state.

“The state released the grades sometime in early October,” Switzerland County Superintendent of Schools Mike Jones said. “But then they were embargoed because you could not release them because there’s an appeal process. Then the state Department of Education had scheduled a meeting to release them, but then they decided to wait. It wasn’t until about two weeks ago that we got official news.”

The grades show improvement for the schools from the previous year; when Switzerland County Middle School earned an ‘A’; Switzerland County High School and Switzerland County Elementary School each earned a ‘C’; and Jefferson-Craig Elementary School received a ‘D’.

“The high school has four components for its grade; while the other three schools have three,” Superintendent Jones said. “The high school is graded on a much different system, so being able to maintain their grade is a positive thing. The high school improved on at least three of those, so we feel like the high school is improving, and we are very excited about how the other three schools did.”

The high school saw an increase in its overall GPA; a 6.9-percent increase in English/language arts performance scores; and an increase in its graduation rate from 86-percent to 94.8-percent.

The superintendent also said that the grades provide momentum as the schools head into testing for this year.

“The testing this year will be on the same accountability structure, and also for the next year,” Superintendent Jones said. “For the following year, the state’s going to be announcing a new accountability, which I feel will be better. The growth will be tied to the individual student and will follow the student, not some cohort.”

Under the current system, each student is placed into a statewide cohort, with the progress of an individual student compared against other students in the same cohort, no matter where in the state the student is.

So, with the new grades out, the entire school corporation is excited about the positive news.

“We’re very excited about it,” the superintendent said. “I think it shows that the school corporation is definitely moving in the right direction.”

With both the middle school and high school maintaining their grades; the true positive in the grading system are the strides made by both elementary schools when it comes to state grades.

Superintendent Jones said that last year Jeff-Craig received a ‘D’ and Switzerland County Elementary received a ‘C’; but with both schools having earned Blue Ribbons from the U.S. Department of Education in the past, so he was confident that both elementaries were doing outstanding work in educating children.

“I think it was a combination of hard work by the staff and the students, first of all,” Mike Jones said. “Along with that, I think the RTI that we are using improved academics all the way across the schools. We’re very proud of the hard work that students and staff did.”

The statewide testing is given to students in grades three through eight; with high school students taking the End of Course Assessment in algebra and language arts.

The RTI is a term for “Response To Intervention”, which is a program that the school corporation adopts where children are pulled from their classrooms for individual instruction and assessment so that students can get the help they need to excel in math and language arts.

“I still come back to the staff and the students in the buildings,” Mike Jones said. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I’m very proud of our schools.”

The superintendent said that the corporation will be having some type of celebration for the students and staff at some point.

“We are going to celebrate with the staff and students,” he said. “I also need to include the community, because so much help comes from parents and grandparents and others who work with our children. There’s hardly a time when I go into a building where I don’t see volunteers helping. We’re very fortunate with that.”