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Lanesville, North Harrison exceed ISTEP state averages

Two Harrison County school districts exceeded state averages for the ISTEP tests taken by students in eight different grades this past fall.
Results from the three public school corporations were mixed. The state average overall passing rate was 64 percent. The ISTEP tests have two sections: language arts and math. Fifth and seventh graders also have a science section.
As a whole, the Lanesville Community School Corp. and the North Harrison Community School Corp. exceeded the state average scores with overall passing rates of 71 percent and 72 percent, respectively. The South Harrison School Corp. failed to meet the state average with a passing rate of 63 percent.
Lanesville Supt. Dr. Phil Partenheimer said he was pleased with his school’s results.
Partenheimer said the balanced calendar the school board adopted in the 2004-2005 school year has had a positive effect on scores.
‘Wow, did it ever,’ he said.
Partenheimer said the school corporation saw a seven-percent increase in their scores this year. The school corporation had average passing rates of 80 percent on the language arts portion and 80 percent on the math portion of the ISTEP tests. The state average for the tests were 71 percent in language arts and 74 percent in math.
‘We were also named an exemplary school corporation,’ Partenheimer said.
The Indiana Dept. of Education assigns five categories of school improvement and performance to schools that have full accreditation in Indiana. Schools are assigned to exemplary, commendable, academic progress, academic watch or academic probation.
North and South Harrison are currently listed under the academic watch category along with 137 other school corporations in Indiana. Once a school is placed on academic watch, the school must show improvement in several areas, including attendance and ISTEP scores, before being placed in a higher category.
North Harrison had an average passing rate of 80 percent for both sections of the test, while only 72 percent of its students passed both sections.
‘We’re happy to score above the state’s average,’ North Harrison Supt. Monty Schneider said, adding that the school corporation would like to do better and could do better.
He also stressed that each school corporation is different and comparisons between the scores of different school districts were often misleading and unfair.
Schneider said the teachers are doing a tremendous job preparing the students for the ISTEP and were making an effort to teach the state standards the tests focus upon, especially since budget constraints have caused classroom sizes to increase.
As a corporation, South Harrison had 62 percent of its students pass both sections of the ISTEP exams, one percent below the state’s average; 70 percent of the students passed the language arts section and 74 percent passed the math section.
Indiana Dept. of Education records dating back to the 1996-1997 school year show South Harrison has not met the state average overall passing rate in the last 11 years. The data does show South Harrison is closing the gap between its scores and the state average scores, falling eight percent below 11 years ago and only one percent this year.
South Harrison Assistant Supt. Jeff Hauswald presented the South Harrison school board last week with the schools’ tests scores and remained positive, saying that scores did not meet the state average but were an improvement from the previous year.
‘We’ve had some pretty solid gains in some areas,’ Hauswald told school board members.
Hauswald said yesterday the school corporation is satisfied that students are improving in areas that they have set goals for.
‘We always strive for improvement for all subject areas and students,’ Hauswald added.
Some of the goals set for this year, Hauswald said, were improving some areas of language arts. The school corporation saw an increase in that area this year.
While falling below the state average overall for the langauage arts section by one percent this year, the school did improve two percent overall from the previous year. The school has met the state average for the math section the past five years.
Hauswald said it is not an easy feat to have significant gains or jumps in scores from one year to the next.
Hauswald said to help improve students’ scores, teachers and administrators develop a plan with specific goals each year and colloborate to discuss the current curriculum, teaching strategies and student performances.
ISTEP data now allows teachers to view images of each student’s test, something formerly not available to school corporations. The images allow teachers to identify problem areas for individual students. Students can then be provided remediation assistance during the school day based on their individual scores and needs.
Students in grades three through 10 took the test. Tenth graders took the Graduation Qualifying Exam, a state-mandated, 18-hour test that students must pass to graduate. If they do not pass, students have three other options for meeting the state’s graduation requirements. Students do have the option of repeating the GQE during their junior and senior years.
Of the county’s 10th graders taking the test, 54 percent passed both sections at Corydon Central High School, 65 percent at South Central Junior-Senior High School, 67 percent at North Harrison High School and 68 percent at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School. The state average overall passage rate for the 10th grade was 64 percent.
Hauswald said many of the students at South Harrison go on to pass the test as a junior or senior or meet state graduation requirements with the three other options.
Some of the criteria in those options include maintaining an attendance rate of 95 percent or better, taking the GQE as a sophomore, junior and senior, maintaining a ‘C’ average, and having prinicipal and teacher recommendations.
Partenheimer said he believes the implementation of the GQE has improved Indiana’s graduation rate and made students more responsible about their own education.
‘It’s no longer a situation where a student can get by with a ‘D,’ ‘ Partenheimer said.