County’s schools ‘meet expectations’ in Federal Ratings

All Wells County public schools are part of the 48 percent of Indiana schools that are considered to “meet expectations,” according to the 2019 federal ratings released by the Indiana Department of Education Friday. 

Only 4.8 percent of state schools were rated as exceeding expectations. Among state schools, 34.2 percent were rated as “approaches expectations;” 11.3 percent as “does not meet expectations;” and 1.6 percent were not graded.

Across the state, 50.2 percent of high schools met expectations and 5.9 percent exceeded. 

 Indiana schools are rated both federally and on a state level due to the difference in federal and state accountability requirements. However, the U.S. Department of Education has approved the state amendment to Indiana’s ESSA plan, which allows schools to receive federal accountability ratings instead of grades like in past years. 

The IDOE press release stated this was done to provide more clarity and to move away from the issuance of two grades being given to each school — one from the state and one from the federal department. 

“As the purpose of the federal accountability system is to provide actionable data that is accessible and aligned to long-term policy goals for student achievement, this change will also allow for a better understanding of the system as a tool to more accurately measure achievement and provide motivated progress towards success, as opposed to it simply becoming a punitive mark,” according to the release. 

Indiana Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said in the press release that she is proud of the work that is being done to “academically prepare our children for life beyond high school.”

“To better serve schools for future successes, however, it is important we develop a single modernized state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate and transparent. Our kids, schools, teachers and parents deserve it,” McCormick said. 

However, people will have to wait to hear how schools were rated for accountability on a state level. The state board of education has adopted a resolution so it will withhold any votes to release those grades until the General Assembly has taken action on the requested hold harmless. 

A hold harmless would prevent poorly performing schools from being punished due to bad ILEARN test results. The state average for passing the English and math portions of the ILEARN test was about 37 percent, which was much lower than state education officials were expecting. 

While all of the schools in Wells County received the rating of “meets expectations,” the schools received that designation in different ways. 

Elementary and middle schools were rated based on English language academic achievement, math academic achievement, English language academic progress, math academic progress, English language closing gaps, math closing gaps, English learner progress (for which all Wells schools had no rating), and addressing chronic absenteeism. 

Overall, Wells County elementary and middle schools were rated as “meets expectations” on the criteria. However, there were exceptions. 

• Southern Wells Elementary School was rated “approaches expectations” for math closing gaps. 

• Southern Wells Junior-Senior High School was rated “approaches expectations” for math academic achievement and addressing chronic absenteeism. The school also was rated “does not meet expectations” for math closing gaps. 

• Ossian Elementary School was rated “approaches expectations” for English language academic achievement.

• Bluffton-Harrison Elementary School was rated “approaches expectations” for both English language academic achievement and English language academic progress, as well as math academic progress. 

• Norwell Middle School was rated “exceeds expectations” for addressing chronic absenteeism. However, the school was also rated “does not meet expectations” for both English language and math closing gaps. 

• Bluffton-Harrison Middle School was rated “approaches expectations” for both math academic achievement and math academic progress. The school also received a “does not meet expectations” rating for math closing gaps. 

• Southern Wells Junior-Senior High School was rated “approaches expectations” for math academic achievement and addressing chronic absenteeism. The school also was rated “does not meet expectations” for math closing gaps. 

High schools were rated on similar indicators as elementary and middle schools with the exception of the closing gaps indicators for English and math. However, the high schools had the added indicators of graduation rate and strength of diploma.

All three county high schools were rated as “exceeds expectations” for graduation rate. Many of the indicators for local high schools rated as “meets expectations,” but there were some outliers.  

• Bluffton High School was rated as “approaches expectations” for math academic progress and addressing chronic absenteeism. 

• Southern Wells Junior-Senior High School was rated as “approaches expectations” for math academic progress, strength of diploma, and addressing chronic absenteeism. 

• Norwell High School was rated as “approaches expectations” for math academic progress and as “does not meet expectations” for strength of diploma. 

To see a full list of federal school accountability ratings, go to bit.ly/37zZvE8

Story and photos by Devan Filchak; Courtesy of the News-Banner

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