After the release of the Department of Education's (DOE) 2012 annual grade report on student progress, Clay Community Schools has reason to celebrate.
Almost every school in Clay County either stayed at their same grade, or improved their letter grade from the 2010-2011 report.
In Clay Community Schools, Clay City Elementary, Clay City Jr-Sr High, Jackson Township Elementary, Van Buren Elementary, Northview High School and Forest Park Elementary all received a letter grade of A.
Staunton Elementary received a grade of B, and North Clay Middle School, East Side Elementary and Meridian Street Elementary all received C's.
Some schools made significant improvements, such as Clay City Jr-Sr High School and Northview High School, which both jumped from a grade of C in 2011 to a grade of A in 2012. Forest Park Elementary went from a grade of D in 2011 to a grade of A in 2012.
Forest Park Elementary school's principal Jon Russell spoke with The Brazil Times about Forest Park's dramatic improvement.
"Our students, faculty, staff and parents have worked very hard in all of their efforts to improve," Russell said.
Russell said there are a few specific things the school has done to contribute to their improvement such as "revamping our master schedule to be more conducive to the learning process, analyzing our data on a regular basis and using that information to guide our instruction and improving our communication both within the school and out to the parents and the community."
Russell said the school will continue to strive toward high academic achievement, and he said Forest Park has implemented a new reading program named BURST that has already shown improvements in student's ability to read.
"We are confident the BURST program along with our solid reading blocks of instruction
will help us continue our upward trend of improvement," Russell said. "But again, I must stress our improvement is a result of our students, faculty, staff and parents' hard work; there is no substitute for it."
According to the Associated Press, about 60 percent of Indiana public and private schools earned A's or B's for the 2011-2012 school year.
According to education officials, over 43 schools improved by at least 3 letter grades---- 40.9 percent of schools earned A's, 20.1 percent of schools earned B's and 20.3 percent of schools earned C's. A total of 18.6 percent of schools earned D or F grades.
"These fair and comprehensive measures of school performance demonstrate that school leaders and teachers are focusing on the skills our students need to succeed in their academic and professional careers," said Tony Bennett, state superintendent of education. "The results of our new approach to grading schools are already making a measurable difference in student performance, and Indiana's educators should be celebrated for their hard work and success."
According to the DOE, this method of grading "holds schools and school corporations to higher standards and provides a more accurate picture of their performance by incorporating student academic growth and graduation rates, as well as college and career readiness indicators."
Elementary and middle schools are given grades based on English/Language Arts and Math ISTEP+ performance, as well as participation and improvement and student growth.
High school grades are based on performance in Algebra 1 and English 10, student improvement, graduation rates and college and career readiness.
Clay Community Schools Superintendent Kim Tucker is pleased with the corporation's results, but feels the grading system is not ideal for schools.
"We're very pleased that most of our schools made improvement," Tucker said. "I feel like we are definitely on the right path to having all of our schools score with high academic achievement."
Tucker said there is a lot of confusion among parents and school communities regarding the grading system.
"The way the Department of Education grades these schools can be very confusing," Tucker said. "For example, Staunton Elementary is a Four Star School, they rank in the 90th percentile of academic achievement, yet with these grading standards, they went from an A to a B.
"The DOE needs to do something to correct some of the issues with the way grades are assigned and the types of tests we use. The ISTEP+ is not suited for these kind of growth measures, and even though I am pleased with our corporation's improvement, I still think there is some unfairness in the grading system."
As for the schools that have made dramatic improvements, Tucker is satisfied with their progress.
"I know Forest Park made significant strides to reform their strategic practices in school," Tucker said in regards to Forest Park's jump from a D to an A.
Tucker said the corporation and schools would continue to do what they've done in the past and will stick with instructional strategies that are working.