by Sarah Einselen
Just one parent showed up for an informational meeting on Columbia Elementary School’s F rating Thursday. And that parent was also a Columbia teacher.
Principal Elizabeth Loposser invited parents of Columbia students to an informational meeting Thursday night to discuss the meaning of the school’s F grade, but none besides gym teacher Dena Kuhn attended. Kuhn was one of about 15 teachers who stayed to talk with Loposser and Logansport Community School Corporation superintendent Michele Starkey.
Administrators hoped the absence of parents showed that parents still had confidence in Columbia’s teachers.
Loposser explained that the school had received its low grade for two main reasons: One, not enough students had raised their ISTEP scores more than state administrators expected — called “high growth” students — and two, too many students had not raised their scores by the expected margin, and were labeled “low growth” students.
“They may have done better, they may have stayed the same,” Loposser said. “But they didn’t make the amount of growth that the state wanted.”
The school won’t be subject to state intervention unless it earns an F for six consecutive years, according to information on the Indiana Department of Education website. Two years ago, the school was rated an exemplary school — the highest rating at the time. That rating fell to a C last year.
Scores did go down on both the English/language arts and math sections of the ISTEP this spring, Loposser said, but not so drastically as the “F” grade made it appear.
State data indicates that 62.4 percent of Columbia fourth-graders passed the ISTEP’s English/language arts section this spring, compared to 73.6 percent of the school’s third graders who did so in spring 2011. In math, 50.7 percent of the class passed this spring, compared to 72 percent who did so in 2011.
The fifth-grade class also dropped. Nearly 82 percent of students passed the fourth-grade English/language arts test in 2011, but this spring, 60.9 percent of fifth-graders passed it. On the other hand, the percentage of students passing the math section went up by 1.4 percentage points to 64.3 percent.
Local administrators aren’t entirely sure how the targeted amount of growth was determined for this year’s grade. As far as they understand it, each student was labeled “low growth,” “typical growth” or “high growth” when compared with other students across the state who got the same scaled score last year as they did — a number, not “pass” or “pass-plus.”
The elementary received no bonus points for high growth and had points subtracted for low growth in both sections of the ISTEP.
That portion of the school performance grades is not the growth model administrators expected.
“When we heard that we were going to have a growth model, we were thrilled in Logansport,” said Starkey, “because our kids show growth from year to year, on themselves. But this isn’t a true growth model.”
“What we hoped that it would be is that if scores go up, as opposed to going down, you have grown,” she said. “But that’s not the case. The scores have to grow a specific amount.”
• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.