News and Tribune

April 6, 2013

DAESCHNER: Greater Clark made accountability strides

Guest columnist

— The current dialogues regarding kindergarten through grade 12 education, especially public schools, interpreted through legislators, news media, and the general public in relationship to accountability data continues to grow.

This dialogue revolves around topics such as vouchers, charters, low performing schools, data-driven results, teacher evaluations and overall governance. I believe it is important to recognize Greater Clark County Schools’ principals, teachers and instructional staff for remarkable data driven results from 2009-12.

The following accountability indicators are the reason for high praise and public support:

1. Considering the largest 29 school districts in Indiana (more than 10,000 students each), Greater Clark School demonstrated the largest combined achievement gain in English (ELA) 25 percent and math 33.6 percent for all students tested on statewide tests in grades three though eight between 2009-12.

Special consideration goes to Greater Clark schools of Bridgepoint, math gained 48.1 percent; Jonathan Jennings, math gained 35.5 percent and ELA gained 31.3 percent; Pleasant Ridge, math gained 36.8 percent; Riverside, math gained 49.1 percent; Thomas Jefferson, math gained 34.8 percent; Parkview, math gained 35.7 percent; and River Valley, math gained 46 percent.

Also, congratulations go to New Albany-Floyd County Schools, which had the third-highest combined ELA at 18.9 percent and math, 30 percent.

2. Greater Clark closed the achievement gap in both ELA and math between regular students and special identified students such as special education, free and reduced lunch, black/multiracial and Hispanic students between 2009-12. Special education students gained 76 percent academic growth in both ELA and math. This is remarkable.

3. In 2008, only five of 19 Greater Clark made the Federal Accountability Standard of Average Yearly Progress, and in 2011, 14 of 19 schools made AYP and remaining schools successfully completed more categories of the evaluation than in 2008.

4. Greater Clark’s high schools saw the following achievement gains from 2009-12 for their statewide accountability End of Course Assessments (ECA): English 10 ECA gained 34 percent and an achievement score of 71 percent; Algebra I ECA gained 39.1 percent and an achievement score of 64 percent; biology ECA gained 122 percent and an achievement score of 60 percent compared to the state’s average score of 44 percent.

5. Greater Clark’s high schools increased the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses by 106 percent to 580 students from 2009-12 and the number of students who exceeded a score of three or higher (receive college credit) by 158 percent to 289 students. This is 867 college credits earned before these students graduate from high school. Jeffersonville High School alone increased its students’ number who took AP courses by 117 percent to 472 students. The Greater Clark Education Foundation paid for all the AP exams.

6. Forty percent of all eighth-graders completed Algebra I with a 98 percent success rate as measured by the ECA. The number of students taking Algebra I at the eighth grade increased by 30 percent between 2009 and 2012.

7. Graduation rates improved form 74 percent in 2008 to 88.3 percent in 2012, a 19.3 percent increase.

8. Greater Clark received an overall grade of B+ from an all parent survey completed annually.

There are many other significant achievements including: technology advances (Jeffersonville High School went from 70 student technology certificates in 2009 to more than 400 certificates in 2012). There are online courses, dual credit courses and no student expulsions. The Greater Clark Education Foundation funded ACT testing for seventh, eighth, ninth and 11th grades. This program was providing a road map to college access.

These achievements deserve even more recognition when one considers the number of Greater Clark students on free and reduced lunch rate is 58 percent, an increase of 10 percent between 2009-12; there was a loss of 10 percent of the general fund over same period of time; an increase in student mobility of 7 percent; and an overall increase in pupil teacher ratios.

There are many proven strategies and techniques used by school’s principals and instructional staff including site-based decision making; research based pedagogy (focus on rigor and student engagement); Goal Clarity Windows; professional development three times a week; data driven assessments and benchmarks; intervention strategies; and classroom walk-throughs.

The main strategy was the schools became learning organizations through the direction of Principals and Building Leadership Teams, where most staff continued to learn and focus on student achievement. A book should be coming out in the fall describing these strategies and techniques in detail and providing vignettes by most of the principals on how they implemented success in their schools.

Please join me in congratulating these remarkable and hard working Greater Clark staff members, parents and students and encourage them to continue to improve student results.

— Stephen Daeschner is the former superintendent at Greater Clark County Schools.