Chesterton Tribune

ISTEP results give Discovery Charter a confidence boost

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The statistics in the most recent ISTEP-plus score reports are giving officials of the Discovery Charter School something to feel good about.

The school has been open for only two years and already has climbed to the top ranks of Indiana’s charter schools in terms of students passing the exams with scores substantially higher from last year.

Discovery Director Ernesto Martinez said after looking over the ISTEP numbers from the Indiana Department of Education, Discovery placed 2nd overall among the state’s 45 charter schools with 96 percent of students passing the Math portion and 93.5 percent passing the English/Language Arts portion.

The only other charter school that did better was the Renaissance Academy Charter School in Michigan City, he said.

According to the statistics Martinez presented Wednesday at the Discovery Board of Directors meeting:

• In Grade 3, Discovery ranked 9th in the state for Math and 105th for ELA out of 1,058 schools.

• In Grade 4, Discovery ranked 243rd for Math and 122nd for ELA out of 1,049 schools.

• In Grade 5, Discovery ranked 99th for Math and 134th for ELA out of 961 schools.

• In Grade 6, Discovery ranked 7th for Math and 85th for ELA out of 683 schools.

• In Grade 7, Discovery ranked 8th for Math and 21st for ELA out of 474 schools.

Furthermore, on passing both ELA and Math, Discovery was 5th out of 43 schools in Porter County, Martinez said.

No school corporation in Porter County had a higher Math percentage than Discovery. Only three school corporations in the state had a higher percentage of students passing the ELA portion.

In Porter County, Discovery had the second largest ELA & Math gain with 7.34 percent over 2011’s results and had the highest math gain overall.

Martinez said he believes “a lot of hard work” is the reason for the school’s progress.

“All of the credit goes to the teachers, students and parents,” said Martinez.

Discovery overtook the Duneland School Corporation’s ISTEP scores for this year, which was the opposite of 2011 when Duneland averaged a little better in both English and math. Scores for Duneland were down this year as the average for all grades was 83 percent in ELA, 85.3 percent in Math, and 77 percent for passing both.

Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer said he plans to discuss the results at the next Duneland School Board meeting scheduled for Aug. 13.

Vito Bianco, vice-president of American Quality Schools which manages Discovery, said the school has overcome criticisms a year ago from local school corporations which pointed out charter schools were generally below state averages for Math and English.

Bianco said the dedication of the Discovery board of directors to the students and their collaboration with parents have allowed the school to make tremendous strides.

“It’s no small feat in one year,” he said.

Board chair Laurie Metz said she was surprised to see the turnaround in grades that struggled last year. The 2010-2011 sixth grade class was below the state average for math and as seventh graders their scores ranked 8th in the state.

“Knowing where we came from last year, that’s unbelievable,” Metz said.

Board looking for new member

In other topics, the board said they are looking to fill a vacancy as their vice-president Gretchen Voskuhl will be relocating with her husband to Washington.

Voskuhl is one of Discovery’s founders and was active in developing the school’s environmental teaching programs. Board members said they hope they can find a successor with a similar background in environmental sciences.

Metz said interested candidates should contact the school. An interview process will then be conducted by the board.


Registration ends tonight

Martinez said 211 students registered Wednesday afternoon for the 2012-2013 school year. Thirty-one have requested notice of late registration which means the school has met more than half of its 461 projected enrollment.

Today is the last day for registration which is from 12-7 p.m. Martinez said and there are roughly 120 students still on the waiting list. The first day of classes is Monday, Aug. 20.

Coinciding with registration, the school will be e-mailing surveys to parents for its school development plan. Metz said the goal is to let the school know what resources are available to it from the community and how those could make an impact in the school’s vision and programs.

The survey will be due to the school at the end of the first week of classes.

Construction update

Martinez reported the Beaumont group contracted for the school’s third phase of construction will begin work to open up five more classrooms for Grades 5-8. The work should be done in a couple of weeks but should it extend into the beginning of the school year, Martinez said they have other approved spaces where those classes could be held temporarily until construction is complete.

Discovery will also purchase 50 more lockers for the older students, Martinez said.

In other news, due to low attendance the board will be scaling back on the number of times they meet for Coffee Chats with parents. Instead of once a month, the Chats will be planned only a few times throughout the year – at back-to-school time, “Turkey Tea” at Thanksgiving, and for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Meanwhile, in lunch milk-related news, the board talked about the possibility of having chocolate milk added to its menu on a limited number of days, but wondered if it would measure up to the school’s commitment of serving healthy, organic meals. The board is evaluating the health benefits of a particular brand of hormone-free chocolate milk and will consult the school’s food service provider FSP.

Canonie Drive to become Discovery Drive?

Metz said it’s “just an idea” but she plans to contact the Town of Porter about formally changing the name of Discovery’s access road, Canonie Drive, to Discovery Drive or Discovery Trail.

Canonie was the name of the engineering group that built and occupied the building before the school purchased it in 2009.


Posted 7/26/2012