One of the biggest performance turnarounds in the state has cast a validating light on remediation efforts at Hope Elementary School.
Benefits of those efforts include the perceived end of state-imposed probationary status, better student performance in the classroom and one-time financial rewards for teachers and administrators.
District officials are so encouraged with the results that they believe the B-grade school is on a can't-fail trajectory to achieve A-grade status under the state's grading formula in the not so distant future.
"It's taken some changes in our approach and a lot of hard work," Hope Principal Jessica Poe said. "The teachers decided they would come together for a common vision, and now that vision is coming to fruition."
Hope Elementary School went on priority status two years ago, when a failing grade on Indiana's A-F Accountability scale, due largely to poor ISTEP+ scores, forced the school on a probation that is still in effect. The status has proved a mixed blessing since then, on the one hand forcing the school to submit large amounts of paperwork to track its changes and results while on the other hand inspiring success.
For example, one feature of the probationary terms was that the state would assign an outreach coordinator to work with the school to improve its state standing. Principal Jessica Poe said the coordinator has proved a valuable resource to keep the school abreast of changing state requirements while serving as a sounding board as the school came up with plans about how best to meet demands.
Poe came up with the idea for a visual system that identifies troubled students, shows at a glance the areas in which they struggle and tracks their improvements by way of blue, green, yellow and red cards. She said teachers and administrators leverage the information through monthly meetings continual analysis, always looking for ways to reach different students who have different needs.
The improvement has been obvious.
Superintendent Shawn Price said ISTEP+, the primary measuring stick accounting for Hope Elementary's "B" grade with the state, shows Hope improved from 47.5 percent passing in 2015 to 56.6 percent passing in 2016. That 9.1-percent spike was nearly 7 percentage points better than the second most improved school in the area, and far more than many schools that actually lost ground.
Poe said a "C" or better on the next ISTEP+ exam should end Hope Elementary School's probation. In fact, she thinks getting off probation is a given. What she wants now is for Hope to become an "A" school.
"There's no reason we shouldn't become one," she said. "I think we're on a great trajectory for that to happen."
The improvement that has already taken place at the local school has rewards for teachers beyond the most important one of all, which is seeing students coming closer to fulfilling their academic potential. The state has granted Hope Elementary School $90,600 in state funds, according to the Indiana Department of Education, which ranks 26th out of all grants it has given in the state.
The grant was split up in December among Hope's effective and highly effective teachers who were employed during the 2015-16 school year, Price said. That equaled a one-time bonus of about $2,265 per teacher.
On Jan. 10, the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. Board dipped into its own district funds to equally reward district administrators.