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3 county high schools earn ‘A’s–-BMS improves, local elementaries drop

November 1, 2012

    New school performance rankings released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education show the three high schools in Adams County earned "A" status for the 2011-12 school year.
    Adams Central, Bellmont and South Adams high schools each received the highest grade possible in the new performance evaluations. Adams Central earned 3.55 of a possible 4.00 points and earned a ranking that is comparable to its school grade for last year. South Adams also retained its "A" status with 3.85 points in this year's ratings.
    Bellmont High School was awarded 3.85 points for 2012, boosting its performance ranking from a "C" in 2011 to an "A" in the latest report.
    Grades for other schools in the North Adams school district, however, were mixed. Bellmont Middle School rose from a "C" ranking in 2011 to an "A" in this year's evaluation, but Northwest and Southeast elementary schools each saw their rankings drop this year from "A" status in 2011 to "C" grades for 2012.
    North Adams Superintendent of Schools Dr. Wylie Sirk said the lower grade for Northwest Elementary is reflective of "one group of students who did not show enough growth" and fell short of statewide expectations. Southwwastt, because students there are not tested, "automatically gets the same grade as does Northwest," said Sirk.
    The superintendent, while pleased with the school district's overall "A" rating, believes state benchmarks will be easier to attain in future years.
    "We keep getting new rules to follow," Sirk said of changing guidelines from the state education department. "Every year the target moves just a little. Now we know what's expected of us."
    The superintendent said North Adams Community Schools have continued to improve in recent years.
    "Since specific programs such as Early Childhood instruction, full day kindergarten, Title I, 21st Century Community Learning Program, Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, dual credit opportunities and Bellmont Early College have been put in place, our test scores and student achievement have improved," he said. "Over the past four years, North Adams ISTEP+ scores in grades 3-8 have increased 12 percentage points and our graduation rate has held over 90%. 

    Adams Central middle and elementary schools were ranked "B" and "A" respectively. Those grades are identical to scores earned last year.
    South Adams Middle School retained its "A" ranking, while South Adams Elementary fell from an "A" in 2011 to a grade of "B" in this yea's report.
    South Adams Superintendent Scott Litwiller and Adams Central superintendent Mike Pettibone were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

    According to a Department of Education spokesperson, letter grades for high schools were 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.
    “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,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said in a prepared statement. “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.”
    The new grading system employed by the state DOE is based largely on student standardized test scores and gives schools and districts A-through-F grades instead of ranking them by categories such as ‘‘academic progress’’ and ‘‘probation’’ as had been done until 2011.
    The grades reflect schools’ performances during the 2011-12 school year.
    Performance grades released Wednesday showed that 7.1 percent of Indiana schools — a total of 148 — received a grade of "F" in the new ratings. The report said 855 schools — 40.9 percent — received grades of "A".
    The state hired private companies last year to take over four schools in Indianapolis and one in Gary after years of poor student scores. The state board approved rules for the new grades in February despite criticism that the rules are unfair and inaccurate.

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Adams Central High School — A (same as 2011)
Adams Central Middle School — B (same as 2011)
Adams Central Elementary — A (same as 2011)

Bellmont High School — A (up from C in 2011)
Bellmont Middle School — A (up from B in 2011)
Northwest Elementary — C (down from A in 2011)
Southeast Elementary — C (down from A in 2011)

South Adams High School — A (same as 2011)
South Adams Middle School — A (same as 2011)
South Adams Elementary — B (down from A in 2011)

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