Local schools’ state grades hold steady or improve

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PENDLETON — South Madison Community School Corp. earned better grades from the Indiana Department of Education for the 2016-17 school year than the prior year, while Lapel schools held steady.
All five schools in the South Madison district improved their school accountability grades by one letter compared to 2015-16. Two of three Lapel schools in the Frankton-Lapel Community School Corp. received the same grade, while one saw a step up.
The grades reflect state standards, such as the graduation rate, state testing and improvement, among other variables.
Across the state, nearly 25 percent of schools improved one or more letter grades, with close to 6 percent improving their letter grade to an A, according to state officials.
Pendleton Heights High School and Pendleton Heights Middle School each earned an A for the 2016-17 school year, up from a B the previous year.
All three South Madison elementary schools — Maple Ridge, East and Pendleton elementary schools — improved from C’s in 2015-16 to B’s in 2016-17.
South Madison school leaders said they were happy to see improvement across the board, Superintendent Joe Buck said.
“The focus on intervention for students not meeting goals, instruction from quality teachers, an aligned curriculum, strong leadership from administrators and tremendous parental support are all factors that resulted in the good effort put forth by South Madison students,” Buck wrote in an email to The Times-Post.
At the high school, several elements factored into the strong performance, Buck said. They included the English Language Arts percent passing rate, growth in the mathematics passing rate, the graduation rate, and the number of seniors who successfully participated in advanced placement and dual-credit courses.
Pendleton Heights Middle School also earned an A thanks to strong student growth in English language arts and math, Buck said.
Lapel High School stayed the same with a B, although there was improvement. Principal Chad Kemerly said the school was very close to earning an A with an 89.8 rating.
“We’re right there,” Kemerly said. “We always want to be an A school, and we work to be there because it’s important to our students, our staff and our community, so that’s our goal.”
Lapel High School students were introduced to new ways to approach tougher testing measures through their curriculum last year, helping them improve their test scores, which is one of the letter grade variables, Kemerly said.
Elsewhere around the district, Lapel Elementary School maintained its B, while Lapel Middle School improved from a C to a B.
Throughout the state, the majority of schools, 62 percent, received an A or B on the performance-based accountability system, according to the IDOE.
“I am encouraged by the results of our current accountability grades as an indication of the great education Indiana students are receiving,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick wrote in a press release.
“Our work, however, is not finished,” McCormick wrote. “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.”
According to the press release, the General Assembly voted in 1999 to create a performance-based accountability system. The state and an education round-table then collaborated for two years to establish the administrative rules for the system. The rules were put into place at the end of 2001.
In 2015, the state education board established new metrics for Indiana’s student-centered accountability system, the press release said. Those metrics went into effect beginning with assessments for the 2015-16 school year.