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SCHOOLS: ‘A’ for effort

November 1, 2012

COLUMBIA CITY – Grade A. That was the mark for three Whitley County Schools. Churubusco Elementary School, Coesse Elementary School and Columbia City High School all received an A ranking based on the Indiana Department of Education’s (IDOE) annual evaluation.
According to the IDOE, more than 40 percent of Indiana’s schools received an A for the 2011-12 school year. The state’s education department released the grading report Tuesday.
Columbia City High School saw an improvement from last year’s mediocre rating of C and the year before when the school received a D grade.
Dr. Patricia O’Connor, superintendent for Whitley County Consolidated School (WCCS), was proud of what the district had accomplished overall.
“We got an A for the district,” she said. “The grades were respectable and I am proud of this district, but there is more work to do. I am satisfied, but I want to keep working to improve our education.”
But other county schools were not at the head of the class. Whitko Community Schools saw the lowest overall grade average with Pierceton Elementary School and Whitko Middle School coming in with a D on the score card.
Rounding out the scores were South Whitley Elementary School and Whitko High School both with Cs. While most of Whitko Community Schools maintained its grade average from last year, Whitko Middle School’s D came after receiving a B last year and an A the year before.
Whitko Community School Superintendent was not available for comment.
According to IDOE’s report, 20.3 percent of schools earned Cs. Only 18.6 percent of schools earned D or F grades, similar to last year’s percentage and lower than in the 2009-2010 school year.
Teachers and school administrations have had mixed reviews on the new grading system that was implemented in for the 2010-11 evaluation. But Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett sees the system as an all-inclusive way to hold schools accountable.
Churubusco Elementary School is one of the schools Bennett would applaud. For a second year, the school received an A. It is the only school in Whitley County to get an A two years in a row.
However, Churubusco Junior-Senior High School fell from last year’s A to a C for the 2011-12 school year.
The grading factors for this year’s review included new metrics were used to calculate school grades.
According to the IDOE, the Indiana Growth Model had a large impact on the scores for elementary and middle schools.
At the high school level, college and career readiness indicators, such as Advanced Placement success and industry certifications, factored in to the grades.
According to the IDOE, the State Board of Education adopted a new methodology for determining grades for schools and school corporations so that schools and school corporations can be held to a higher standard and provide an accurate picture of their performance by incorporating student academic growth and graduation rates as well as college and career readiness indicators, according to the department’s press release.
The IDOE said letter grades for high schools are calculated based on performance (Algebra 1 and English 10 End of Course Assessments), student improvement, graduation rate, and college and career readiness indicators (such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and industry certification exams or earning college credits). Letter grades for elementary and middle schools are based upon English/Language Arts and Math ISTEP+ performance, participation and improvement as well as student growth.
For schools in Whitley County, the grades may mean a more aggressive approach in the classroom. Even for WCCS, Dr. O’Connor said, “Thanks to the teachers, staff and administration for their hard work and dedication, but we are still going to focus on higher student achievement. We’re not finished yet.”
To review the complete list of schools’ grades or to read the IDOE’s explanation on the grading factors, visit

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