Indiana Chamber Study: Merging Small School Districts Could Improve Test Scores

Hoosier school districts with fewer than 2,000 students should consider merging with another small district to reap better test scores, according to a study released last Tuesday.

“Students in small school corporations in Indiana, which comprise 20 percent of total statewide enrollment, are academically disadvantaged,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Consolidation of districts could reduce administrative costs and improve SAT scores, Advanced Placement passing rates, eighth-grade ISTEP scores and passing rates for end-of-course assessments in algebra and biology, the study found.

“Smaller schools have meaningfully worse outcomes in standardized tests and the college preparatory elements — the SAT, the ACT and the AP pass-rate — particularly in mathematics and sciences than do larger schools,” said Michael Hicks, director of the Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research.

The study, commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation, was conducted by Ball State’s CBER.

In 2014, 154 of Indiana’s 289 schools corporations had enrollments of fewer than 2,000 students. Of the smaller school corporations, 94 percent were contiguous with another small district.

The enrollment figure of 2,000 was chosen for the study because it has been identified in previous studies as the minimum number for efficiency.

Small districts that increase their enrollment to around 2,000 could experience an increase in the average student’s performance on SAT of 20.5 points and a 14.9 percent increase in students passing AP exams.

A district merger could also yield a 5 percent point increase in eighth-grade ISTEP pass rate and an additional 4 percentage point increased in end-of-course assessments in algebra and biology.

The size of a district, however, did not impact the passing rate for fourth-grade ISTEP or 10th-grade end-of-course assessments in English, Hicks said.

A district with more than 50,000 students, however, becomes problematic, Hicks said. Indiana’s largest districts include Indianapolis Public Schools at 30,000 students, South Bend Community Schools at 19,300 and Vigo County Schools at 15,400. The smallest districts include Union School Corporation in Randolph County at about 336 and Medora Community Schools in Jackson County at 205.

Enrollment declines have been seen in numerous districts, knocking some like Decatur County Community Schools and Brown County Schools closer to the 2,000-student mark.

Enrollment declines are due primarily to population shifts to urban centers and the loss of manufacturing jobs among other factors, Hicks said.

In Indiana, 85 school districts had enrollment declines of 100 or more from 2006 to 2014, the study found.

“They’re not going to grow their way out of this problem. It’s only going to get worse,” Brinegar said.

Brinegar applauded action by the recent Indiana General Assembly that provided consolidating school districts with a one-time incentive of $250 per student. The grant can go towards the professional fees associated with the consolidation or for teacher stipends.

Crothersville Superintendent Disagrees

However, Crothersville Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Terry Goodin doesn’t share the view that larger schools produce better students. “The push against small schools is now mainstream as statewide there is movement toward consolidation of small schools with larger ones,” said Goodin, who is also a State Representative.

The state Chamber of Commerce believes businesses must be innovative to remain viable, he said.

“Here at Crothersville we are following the Chamber of Commerce’s lead in our business of educating our students by being innovative,” said the local school leader.

He points out that Crothersville has some advantages that some of the state’s other small schools do not.

“Crothersville is ahead of the curve on an important educational argument,” he said. “Our partnerships with Ivy Tech, Austin High School and Southwestern High School provides us the best of both worlds: access to more academic programs in a small school setting.”

As long as we can continue to be innovative there should be no word or need to consolidate, Goodin said.

 

Scott L. Miley, CNHI Statehouse Bureau, contributed to this story.

 

Chamber’s Report Lands With A Thud Among Rural Southern Indiana Schools

 

“I’ve been working on my dissertation,” said Travis Madison, Barr-Reeve Superintendent, a school with an enrollment of 850 in Daviess County. “The one thing I know is that you can get whatever answer you want. All you have to do is phrase the question to get it.”

Barr-Reeve has roughly 850 students enrolled this fall. That is less than half of the 2,000 student threshold the State Chamber recommends.

Like Crothersville, Barr-Reeve partners with colleges so that students are receiving dual credits they can use after high school. Some graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree

Madison says that there is a group that is composed of some legislators and the Chamber of Commerce that have been pushing this same agenda for years.

“This is the same claim we got back when Mitch Daniels was first elected,” said Madison. “They think larger school corporations are more efficient and they put together information to build that narrative. These legislators and the Chamber want everything in a box. They think small communities can’t make their own good decisions.”

Smaller schools were doing well financially until the state changed the funding formula favoring growing school systems to the detriment of smaller ones, he said.

Madison says the message out of Indianapolis about school size is inconsistent.

“If small is bad, then why have the voucher program for private schools and charter schools?” he said. “Those are all smaller schools and the state tells us how the smaller class size and one-on-one attention helps the students. They are talking out of both sides of their mouth.”

Madison contends the study is building numbers to create a conclusion.

“We have found that when it comes to success, size doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s about the people. The student who show up ready to learn, the faculty and staff that are committed to providing quality education and parents who support their school and community.”

“This is really another attack on public education,” said Madison. “For some reason there are some people who want private enterprise to take over education. Let’s remember that Indiana pulled $300 million out of public education and never replaced it. This looks like their way of covering that they dropped the ball on funding.”

Mike Grant of the Washington Times contributed to this story.

Solar Eclipse Coming Monday

Next Monday afternoon, Aug. 21, a solar eclipse will briefly darken Crothersville and southern Indiana. While parts of southern Kentucky are in the path of a total eclipse, the local areas should experience about a 93-95% eclipse for less than three minutes sometime just before 2:30 p.m.

What is a solar eclipse? The eclipse occurs when the earth’s moon passes in front of the sun and the moon blocks some (partial eclipse) or all (total eclipse) of the sun’s light and casts a shadow on earth.

The sun is a very large, nearby star about 866,000 miles in diameter and 93 millions miles from earth, according to the Indiana University Astronomy Department. The moon, on the other hand, is much smaller, about 240,000 miles in diameter. That’s why the path, or the shadow, of the eclipse is smaller and larger in some parts. As the Earth spins, only certain sections of the US and world can see the eclipse at it’s total shadow, or it’s partial shadow.

While the size of the illuminating and shadow producing celestial bodies are large, the full or partial eclipse is relatively brief, lasting only about 2 minutes 40 seconds as the earth spins on its axis.

Ophthalmologists warn not to look at the eclipse without special glasses, the equivalent of the darkened lens of welder’s glasses. Regular sunglasses are not adequate. Permanent scarring of the retina can result by not using appropriate eye protection.

•Total solar eclipses for a particular location are very rare, occurring on average once every 375 years.

•Everyone in the continental United States will see the eclipse

•The last eclipse in the United State was in 1979.

•The next solar eclipse seen in America will be in 2045.

•Last coast-to-coast eclipse was in 1918. This will be the first coast-to-coast eclipse after the creation of the interstate highway system

INDOT is warning of traffic congestion on the southbound interstates as motorists travel to areas in Kentucky and Tennessee to view the total eclipse. At the conclusion of the event motorists should expect “evacuation like” traffic returning north following the event, according to the INDOT release.

The total solar eclipse begins near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 1:15 p.m. EDT. Totality ends at 2:48 p.m. EDT near Charleston, South Carolina. The partial eclipse will start earlier and end later, but the total eclipse itself will take about one hour and 40 minutes to cross the country.

The Jackson County Public Library will hold an eclipse viewing event at Seymour, Crothersville, and Medora libraries for this historic event next Monday.

1 p.m. – Eclipse begins on the west coast

2:26 p.m. – Maximum Totality – 93.8%

The library will provide eclipse glasses for the viewing for the participants, while supplies last. Participants will need to provide their own lawn chairs.

The library program is free and open to all ages. Remember never to view the sun without protective eyewear. Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes from looking directly at the sun.

 

Child Welfare Check Sends 3 To Jail After Drugs Found

Indiana Conservation Officers, along with the Washington and Scott County Sheriff’s Departments, arrested three people on a multiple drug and weapons charges.

Joshua Thomas Purlee

Joshua Thomas Purlee, 35, of Floyds Knobs, and Deloris Newton, 58, of Austin, were arrested in Washington County, while James Newton, 52, of Austin was arrested in Scott County.

On Sunday, Aug. 6, Indiana Conservation Officers Robert Brewington and Washington County Sheriff’s Drputy Brad Naugle responded to a report of a young girl playing alone in the rain at Elk Creek Lake Public Fishing Area between Scottsburg and Salem.

Deloris Newton

Officers found the girl in a vehicle by herself while her father, Joshua Purlee, was in a separate vehicle with Deloris Newton. A search of Purlee and Newton found nearly 30 grams of methamphetamine, marijuana, prescription pills, and cash, Conservation Officers reported.

Both were arrested, and the Indiana Department of Child Services was contacted. The child was transferred to the custody of a relative.

James Newton

Officer Brewington obtained a search warrant for Newton’s residence in Austin, where Indiana Conservation Officers and Scott County Sheriff’s Department officers found more methamphetamine, prescription pills, paraphernalia, and firearms. James Newton, Deloris Newton’s husband, was at the home and was arrested.

Nearly 43 grams of methamphetamine, several hundred prescription pills, marijuana, paraphernalia, and 13 firearms were seized as evidence in this case.

Joshua Thomas Purlee was booked into Washington County Jail facing charges of dealing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, maintaining common nuisance, neglect of dependent, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of controlled substance.

Deloris Newton was booked into the Washington County jail charged with dealing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, maintaining common nuisance and possession of paraphernalia.

James Newton was booked into the Scott County Jail charged with dealing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, possession of controlled substances, maintaining a common nuisance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

 

Scott Co. Traffic Stop Yields Heroin

A traffic stop in I-65 resulted in the arrest of a Scottsburg woman on a variety of drug charges on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., Indiana State Police Trooper Nathan Abbott made a traffic stop on northbound Interstate 65 near the 29 mile marker for a traffic infraction on a blue van. Once the traffic stop was made ISP K-9 Teague alerted on the vehicle as to possibly contain controlled substances.

Alexandrea Grut

During a search of the vehicle, used syringes, plastic baggies and other paraphernalia was located, according to ISP Sgt. Jerry Goodin. During additional investigation police learned that the driver of the vehicle, Alexandrea E. Grut, 26, of East Jefferson Street in Scottsburg, was in possession of heroin hidden in a body cavity.

Grut, was placed under arrest and transported to the Scott County Jail where the hidden Heroin was confiscated. Grut, was charged with possession of heroin, maintaining a common nuisance, possession of a syringe and possession of paraphernalia.

This investigation is continuing, Goodin reported.

Library ‘Food For Fines’ Underway

Customers of the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour, Crothersville, and Medora can pay overdue fines by donating non-perishable food items now through August 26.

Donations of non-perishable food items collected in lieu of fines are given to local food pantries at Provisions Inc. and Anchor House in Seymour, Crothersville First Baptist Church, and Medora Christian Church.

Since its first fine-waiving program in 1991, the Jackson County Public Library has accepted 80,192 items (food, school supplies, and supplies for the Humane Society) and waived $66,090.80 in overdue fines.

For every dollar owed in fines at least one food item must be donated. If a customer has a $5.00 fine, at least five food items are needed to erase the fine. A fine of $5.50 would require at least six food items. Food items must not be expired, rusty, dented or USDA commodities.

Food for Fines is not available to customers with damaged or lost materials. The materials must be returned undamaged within six months of their original due date before the overdue fines can be waived. Collection agency accounts may participate in this year’s only fine-waiving program as long as they pay the $10 collection agency fee first.

Customers participating in Food for Fines will receive a computer-generated receipt reflecting fines waived by their food donation.

Food for Fines applies to all Jackson County Public Library materials including movies and audiobooks but does not apply to fines from other Evergreen Indiana libraries.

Individuals without library fines wishing to donate food items may do so at any library location.

For more information contact the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour at 812-522-3412, Crothersville at 812-793-2927 or Medora at 812-966-2278.