12/26/11 Two Marshall County schools were named Four Star Schools for the 2010-2011 school year by the Indiana Department of Education. Webster Elementary in Plymouth and Bremen High School in Bremen had been notified of the award several weeks ago, but the public announcement was just released on December 21.
Out of 1,780 public schools, 162 earned this distinction. Eleven of 238 non-public schools also received the honor this year.
“Today serves as an opportunity to recognize the great work of educators throughout Indiana,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett said. “These schools encourage a culture of high expectations for their students. The students and educators who meet these expectations on a daily basis should be extremely proud of this honor.”
To be considered a Four Star School, a school’s combined English 10 and Algebra 1 End of Course Assessment, or English/Language Arts and Math ISTEP+, passing percentages must fall into the top 25th percentile when compared to schools statewide. A school must also have made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to qualify.
This is the second year in a row that Webster has received the honor. Carrie McGuire, principal of Webster Elementary, believes the Plymouth Community School Corporation’s commitment to using research based programs and practices for many years has led to Webster’s success. She said, “We don’t use things we think work or have always done; we use what we know works. I think some schools are unwilling to let go of what they have always done and move to new strategies. “She added, “The fact that both our students and staff work extremely hard and have high expectations for one another have led to our continued success.” “It is a group effort here at Webster and we all feel responsible for the success of our students. “ McGuire said.
“Our staff and parents are the best and work very hard day in and day out.” she said. “I have never seen a place where teachers and also our support staff are so dedicated to their mission. We have high expectations of our children.”
McGuire said they knew their scores were good and weren’t surprised to learn that they had been named a Four Star School, but said it was a welcome holiday surprise to have the news released.
McGuire believes that keeping the nearly 340 students interested in the instruction is found in the planning process. She said, “How do we keep kids engaged while at school since there is so much outside of school that is so fast paced and “entertaining”? Our staff has this discussion all of the time. We know that students choose to be engaged and it is our job to create activities that they want to be engaged in.”
McGuire is in her sixth year with the PCSC. She said, “I am not sure what my expectations were when I came here six years ago, except that I would work hard each and every day to make Webster the best school it could be. It is really hard to even think back to six years ago, but everyone always envisions and strives to be successful. I knew Webster was a good school when I came, which was a little intimidating of a role to step into as a first time principal. I could not have had a better group of staff, parents, and students to share this experience with, so I feel very blessed for this opportunity.”
Plymouth Schools Superintendent Daniel Tyree said, “We expected them to be a Four Star School since their scores were even better than last year, but we’re always apprehensive until the news is released.” He said, “We are elated for the school, staff, students and parents.” He added, “We continue to make gains and we believe we are not far away from having multiple Four Star Schools.”
All four Plymouth elementary schools were ranked as “A” schools by the DOE this year.
Bremen High School Principal, Bruce Jennings, said, “We are honored that Bremen High School is a Four Start School and also an “A” ranked school.”
“We have high expectations for our students and staff members and we hold each other accountable.” he said.
Jennings feels the success of a school is people. He said, “We have quality teachers and staff and we work in collaboration.” “It’s those people, not the programs that make a difference.”
According to Jennings, BHS has had an increased focus on career and college readiness for their over 500 students. He said, “We have consistent use of formative assessments and use data for instructional changes.” He said, “The assessments help us do differentiated instruction and provide interventions for struggling students.”
Jennings was quick to point out that the honor is reflective of the entire school’s efforts. He said, “We need to honor our staff and administrators from kindergarten through the high school.”
The ISTEP test scores used to calculate the Four Star status are those of this year’s juniors who took the test as sophomores. They had an 85 percent passing rate in English and 90 percent in Math. But Jennings said they are not contented with just meeting the minimum standards. He said, “We are not satisfied. This just isn’t good enough.” He added, “We are still missing some kids.”
After being at the Bremen Schools for 33 years, with the last five as principal and having taught chemistry, physics and biology at the high school level, Jennings said he has learned that students like to be challenged. “We use tender and tough love and our staff genuinely cares about their kids.” Jennings said.
Jennings said, “We truly feel blessed with the parents and patrons who support our work.”
Emily Acklin, press secretary for the DOE, said the Four Star Schools will receive official certificates for their achievements.