(Bright, Ind.) - The principal of Bright Elementary School is taking up issue with the letter grade his school received in an annual evaluation by the Indiana Department of Education.
In the evaluations released October 31, Bright Elementary was among 20 percent of Indiana’s schools receiving a C grade. It was the lowest grade received in the Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools district.
However, Principal Norbert Goessling says his school deserved a better grade. In a letter sent to parents, Goessling sought to shed some light on how “a tremendous school such as BES can be rated with a ‘C’ by the Indiana Department of Education.”
Goessling pointed to Bright’s performance on the ISTEP+ standardized test. He said 89 percent of 3rd graders passed math while 90 percent passed the English portion of the test. Results among 4th graders were almost as high – 86 percent passing math while 90 percent passed English. All were at least six points higher than the state average.
He also highlighted the elementary’s 96 percent attendance rate, about even with the state average.
The principal argues that the final letter grade that a school like Bright Elementary received is based solely on ISTEP scores earned by our 4th graders compared to when those students were 3rd graders.
“Our final letter grade gives us “zero” credit for attendance, any work or test scores in K-1-2-3, as well as nothing for our science scores. Our raw letter score started as a 3.75 (A), we were then deducted a letter grade for showing low growth in our 4th grade math scores and deducted another letter grade for low growth in E/LA. So the final grade looks at only two 4th grade scores and compares them to where the students were as 3rd graders,” Goessling said.
Goessling’s full letter sent to parents regarding Bright Elementary School’s C grade can be read below:
Dear Parents and Staff of Bright Elementary School (BES),
I am writing this letter due to the news release of the IDOE recent ‘A-F’ rating of the schools in Indiana. I want to assure you that we at BES have looked at these results and are taking them seriously. I would like to shed some light on how a tremendous school such as BES can be rated with a ‘C’ by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). Please review the following explanation and contact me with any questions you may have with it. I hope by shedding some light on our 'C' ranking, you will understand my confidence, as principal of BES, that we are not a 'C' school. From the teachers and assistants, to the custodians, cafeteria staff, nurse, and office personnel, we work very hard at BES and strive to be an 'A' ranked school every day. The IDOE and their new formula for ranking schools have portrayed BES inaccurately. I would encourage you to review our scores at http://compass.doe.in.gov/dashboard/overview.aspx?type=school&id=1193.
I would also encourage you to “GOOGLE” A-F Ratings for Indiana Schools. Please try to read some reports that aren’t written by the IDOE. When reading about schools, please make sure to check them out on COMPASS. (Website above). Please visit http://www.sunmandearborn.k12.in.us for further information on school ratings.
Here are some of the spring 2012 (last school year) statistics for Bright Elementary School:
** Stats you can’t get from COMPASS:
1 Point deducted* (51% % of the students showed low growth) 43% cut score - a difference of 13 students.
(7% showed high growth)
1 Point deducted*(43 % of the students showed low growth) 40% cut score - a difference of 6 students.
(14% showed high growth)
-This statistic is not used in the A-F rating **
One might think that to grade a school, you would use a lot of data and take many factors into account. Well that is just not true for a school with grades K-1-2-3-4. The final letter grade that a school like ours will get is based solely on ISTEP scores earned by our 4th graders compared to when those students were 3rd graders. Our final letter grade gives us “zero” credit for attendance, any work or test scores in K-1-2-3, as well as nothing for our science scores. Our raw letter score started as a 3.75 (A), we were then deducted a letter grade for showing low growth in our 4th grade math scores and deducted another letter grade for low growth in E/LA. So the final grade looks at only two 4th grade scores and compares them to where the students were as 3rd graders.
So why the ‘C’ rating?
In the state of IN, all 3rd graders (from 2011 to 2012) dropped 2% in ISTEP- E/LA from an 82% to an 80%.
BES went from 91% to a 90%* (10% above state average). In the state of IN all 3rd graders (from 2011 to 2012) dropped 1% in ISTEP -Math from a 78% to 77%. BES went from a 90% to an 86%* (9% above state average).
This is an area of concern which we will work on. See below what we are doing about this drop.
Fourth graders who are now 5th graders did not show as much growth as the IDOE would have expected. The 4th grade ISTEP is a large change from the 3rd grade ISTEP and is known to drop. Since we have only one grade to look at, we can’t get any type of averaging and they look at nothing else.
How can we make an ‘A’ rating under these new grading guidelines?
That would be easy. We could see that our 3rd graders do poorly on their ISTEP so we can show tremendous growth in the 4th grade scores. Well of course we won’t be doing that!
Primarily we need to work on our Math and E/LA scores for our 4th graders, especially with our lowest preforming students. Currently every year we will start behind knowing that the 4th grade ISTEP is normally 2% behind the 3rd grade ISTEP scores. (This fact alone forms a bleak outlook for all schools made up of K-1-2-3-4 grades. Other schools which contain multiple ISTEP growth years can average out years, unlike BES, where our entire score rides on just one year’s growth which is statistically 2% lower).
This year BES has become a Title I school which allows us more resources for professional development (PD), supplies, and an aide specific to the 4th grade, who will work specifically with our lowest performing (non-individual educational plan (IEP) students). Teachers practiced with ACUITY testing last year and will have a better understanding as to how to track students this year as we prepare for ISTEP (both grades 3 & 4). This will allow us to find student’s weaknesses and help them improve. Team Success Tutoring is available for our lowest performing students this year. Currently we have tutoring offered in 3-4 grade Math and 1-2 grade E/LA. This spring we will offer tutoring for 3-4 grades E/LA and 1-2 grades math.
I attempted to appeal the grade for BES, but found out that schools were only able to appeal the decision if the schools were less than 3 years old. (3 years ago, happens to be when Charter Schools started in IN.)
As you look at these statistics, I hope you share my frustration in trying to understand how BES is rated a ‘C’ School.
Principal of Bright Elementary School