State announces school rankings

Friday, August 11, 2006

Putnam County's four public school corporations are at varying levels of academic progress, according to a first of its kind report issued by the state Department of Education this week.

The report, approved by the Board of Education on Wednesday, places each of the state's school corporations and their respective schools in one of five categories based primarily on their ISTEP scores.

School corporations with the highest percentages of students passing the ISTEP test tended to rank highest on the list, receiving "exemplary" status.

However corporations whose students tended to score lower on the ISTEP, yet still showed significant improvements from year to year, also tended to rank higher on the list.

The five rankings, beginning with the best and ending with the worst are: exemplary progress, commendable progress, academic progress, academic watch and academic probation.

Cloverdale Community Schools was the only Putnam County school corporation to be ranked as "exemplary." They join 20 percent of Indiana schools to receive that distinction.

CCSC Superintendent Carrie Milner was not available to comment on the news Friday, however, Cloverdale High School Principal Sonny Stoltz said he hopes the corporation will continue to build on that success.

Next highest on the list was Greencastle Community School Corporation which received the "academic progress" ranking. They were among 15 percent of corporations in the state to be named in that category.

Greencastle school officials were not available for comment on Friday.

Finally on the list were both North and South Putnam Community Schools who each received "academic watch" ratings.

North Putnam Superintendent Murray Pride took the news to mean his corporation has work to do.

"I don't like being on academic watch," he said. "It indicates that we need to assess our programs and do what we can to improve."

South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt was equally as concerned with the ranking for his corporation but said he feels improvements can be made.

"We've got a lot of good people here who are willing to work with the kids," Bernhardt said. "We want to work hard and get out of that (ranking)."

None of the county's schools ranked in the lowest category: academic probation. According to the DOE report, schools on academic probation are required to issue a public notice of the school's lack of improvement and hold a public hearing to solicit public input.

Corporations weren't the only entities to rank on the list this week. Each of the county's elementary, high school and middle schools were ranked as well. They were ranked as follows:

-- North Putnam High School, academic watch,

-- North Putnam Middle School, academic watch,

-- South Putnam High School/Junior High, academic watch,

-- Greencastle High School, academic watch,

-- Greencastle Middle School, academic progress,

-- Cloverdale High School, academic watch,

-- Cloverdale Middle School, academic progress,

-- Bainbridge Elementary, exemplary progress,

-- Roachdale Elementary, exemplary progress,

-- Central Elementary, commendable progress,

-- Fillmore Elementary, commendable progress,

-- Reelsville Elementary, commendable progress,

-- Ridpath Elementary, not listed,

-- Deer Meadow Elementary, academic watch,

-- Tzouanakis Intermediate, exemplary progress,

-- Cloverdale Elementary, commendable progress.

Making the whole thing a little confusing to administrators is the fact that the state's ranking seems to go against those under the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.

Pride explained that a corporation could rank high under the federal system, yet rank low at the state level.

"It's sort of sending a different message I guess," Pride said. "That's a little bit of a problem for us."

Pride said the state looks at corporations and their progress over a period of years, while the federal looks at a single year.

"We think improvement over time is a better judge than for just one test," Pride said.

In general, corporations will face penalties, to include refusal of some grants, should they fail to show progress after some time. They also face "intervention (from the state) designed to provide additional support needed to improve student achievement.

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