Although considerably less well attended than the two previous meetings, the Culver Community school board were presented with two agenda items of major interest to the corporation at their Monday night meeting.
The first item on the agenda was a public hearing on the academic probation status of Culver High School. Principal Albert Hanselman was in charge of the presentation to the board and public. Hanselman stated that recent scoring for the high school showed student performance levels below 50 percent and improvement at only 3 percent. For the current year there is a score of 12.4 negative percent. The results of this testing puts the school on academic probation for a period of three years.
Hanselman then proceeded to show how the scores varied between the fall and spring testing and questioned the method of scoring by the Board of Education due to the wide discrepancy in the percentages. For the class of 2012 (juniors) the initial testing showed only 49.2 percent passed English and 43.8 percent passed Algebra. In the following test period, 69 percent passed the English phase of the test and 60.6 percent passed the Algebra. Students must pass these tests in order to graduate. After the opportunity to retest, 80.1 percent have now passed, which puts the class in an "exemplary status".
"I question the validity of the testing process." Hanselman said.
Steps taken to improve the academic standards include securing the services of a writing coach for English, remediation classes, reading classes, E20-20 services on line (E standing for education), and realigning teaching staff. There will be acuity exams for math which will highlight the strength and weakness of each student plus curriculum realignment and staff realignment.
Asked how many students were in the Junior class by Jim Wentzel, board member, Hanselman said there are 57, the lowest class number in recent history. Ken VandePutte, member, asked if Culver had been in a similar probation situation and Hanselman noted that two to three years ago Culver was on a probationary status for one year.
The method of testing was an item of interest for the board. Testing for ISTEP is done electronically and more than a few problems have occurred in the process, Hanselman noted. Due to the high volume of students taking the test, the testing network becomes overloaded and students are "locked out" of a test for times ranging between four to twenty minutes at a time. Noting the high incidence of this lock out between 10 and 11 AM, the DOE's suggestion was "don't test between the hours of 10 and 11 AM. The lockout situation is traumatic to the students taking the test and increase the stress level Hanselman said. Ed Behnke, member, said "We tested the state and they failed." By 2014 to 2015, there will be no more ISTEP testing but a nationwide standard test. At this time, 48 of the 50 states have signed on for the standard nationwide testing.
The next item of interest regarded a High School/Middle School One to One Technology Initiative. Along with Daniel Medesi, who is in charge of the computer programming and technology, Hanselman presented the idea to provide Apple IPad 2's to the middle and high school student body beginning in August of 2011.
There would be a three year lease with Apple to provide the 515 IPads, plus the bags and maintenance for a cost of $150,000 per year. Brad Schuldt, superintendent, and Tom Bendy, treasurer, told the board the money was already in the budget for next year in the Capital Projects fund. There will be less money spent on other technology such as providing more laptops. Schuldt noted there would still be 90 laptops available for student use but said there is considerable difference in cost between a laptop and IPad with the laptop costing approximately $1,000. There will be no cost to parents unless they wish to insure the device as each student will be responsible for their IPad. Behnke asked what students who didn't have a wireless connection at their home would do for homework assignments. Hanselman said that teachers would not give homework assignments to any student who did not have the connection.
Hanselman and Medesi gave an impressive presentation on the flexibility of the IPad and the numerous educational applications available to the student. They noted this is the wave of the future and most students are already well equipped to manage the new technology. Any apps a student might choose to download will be monitored by the school's service and discontinued immediately if not appropriate. They also noted the device has a 10 hour battery supply and chargers will be available in school and in the home.
Some of the applications suitable for student use were displayed including the dictionary application, allowing immediate access to definitions, video slide shows for presentations and the DRAGON program that is a speech to text application. The student merely speaks the text into the device and it translates into written text. While presently not replacing all textbooks, Hanselman said books as we know them now, will soon be a thing of the past. More and more Ebook applications are available through local libraries.
Although a vociferous opponent to Apple ordinarily, member Ed Behnke, made the motion to support the request for the One to One Technology Initiative which will make Culver one of the first in Indiana to go electronically. The board approved the issue.
In other business, Jerry Hollenbaugh's contract was approved as vocational director for another year. High School and Middle School handbooks were examined and will be approved.