State report favorable for Bremen schools

BREMEN — With the release of the Indiana Department of Education Annual Performance Report, Bremen Public Schools saw continued improvement in some key areas.

Perhaps most notably, Bremen High School's graduation rate jumped to 92.3 percent, up from 85.6 percent two years ago and 7.2 percent above the state average.

"That's been a big goal as part of the improvement plan at the high school," Bremen Public Schools Superintendent Russ Mikel said. "Unlike some districts, we're at that rate without granting any waivers, so that's a true number for us and we're pretty proud about that."

At 61 percent, the number of seniors taking the SAT increased by 13 percent and was 11 percent above the Indiana average.

Although not a major problem before, the number of high school suspensions dropped from 16 last year to seven this year.

"We've seen staff and kids more focused, and that makes a difference," Mikel said. "Plus our numbers are up 60 some students, so we have more students and fewer suspensions."

After being honored by the state for its ISTEP scores improvement, it was no surprise that the report noted Bremen Elementary-Middle Schools' dramatic gains. In 14 ISTEP categories, the schools had an average across-the-board leap of 12.6 percent. Also, in two years, the percentage of eighth-graders taking Algebra I nearly doubled, from 22 percent to 39.3 percent.

One area of concern is the percentage of 11th- and 12th-graders taking advance placement tests. The state average is 21 percent, and Bremen is a 3 percent, up from zero a year ago.

"We're currently working on that now at the high school," Mikel said.

Mikel credits the system's teachers and administrators, who have had to do more with less due to recent budget cuts.

"Our staff has stepped up and has responded to the changing conditions, whether it's financial or diversity in the classroom," Mikel said. "They've worked harder than I've ever seen and have done a great job."