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70 percent of students pass ISTEP math, English

July 12, 2011

Indiana students did better last year on statewide tests than in 2010, but at least one school remains in danger of being taken over by the state for underperforming, according to 2011 standardized achievement test results released Tuesday.

Seventy percent of students passed the English and math portions of Indiana's test, according to results measuring math, English, science and social studies skills in grades 3 through 8. Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said he's pleased with the progress.

"I don't mean to be flippant, but one thing I want to focus on today is the success of these schools," Bennett said.

The state reported pass rates of 78 percent in English, 79 percent in math, 69 percent in science and 67 percent in social studies.

But the news wasn't so good for Emma Donnan Middle School in Indianapolis. The school is in danger of being taken over by the state after not sufficiently improving enough to be taken off a list of 18 schools on probation for their test performance.

A new principal and vice principal are set to take over Donnan at the start of the school year along with a teaching staff mostly made of new hires. The process has taken almost a year, said Indianapolis Public Schools spokeswoman Kim Hooper.

"Everything doesn't always turn on a dime," Hooper said.

Still, the changes may come too late to stop the state from intervening. The state school board is expected to decide by the August what to do with the school.

Donnan is one of only two schools still teaching 7th and 8th grades in the district. Bennett held out the other, H.L. Harshman Middle School, as an example of a successful turnaround.

Bennett tapped Principal Bob Guffin two years ago to run the school. Guffin spent the first year evaluating the students and teachers and then led a complete overhaul of the staff and the school's transition to a magnet program focusing on science and math.

After the first year in a magnet school with new teachers, the number of Harshman students passing the statewide test increased 27.2 percentage points.

Guffin credited his teaching staff, roughly 80 percent of which was new to Harshman at the start of the school year, with the improvement.

Although being a magnet school does give Harshman one key advantage over other schools: students who are failing can be sent back to the schools they would otherwise attend if they had not been accepted into the magnet.

Nine weeks into the last school year, Harshman staff discovered 97 students were failing. Teachers worked overtime to mentor the 97 students, Guffin said, but 12 still were dismissed from the school.

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