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Local advanced placement students excel

Despite the pandemic, Grant County students overall outperformed past years on this year’s AP testing scores.

High school students in Advanced Placement courses begin working each fall in preparation for the spring exams which can translate into college credits with passing scores. Teachers give instruction all year both on the content of the exam and specific strategies for the test itself, but those test strategies all went out the window when schools closed down in March due to COVID-19.

While the College Board adapted AP tests into shorter online exams and changed the scope of material that would be covered, local high school students and teachers were hard at work making adjustments of their own.

Marion High School AP biology teacher Kristi Phillippe said before schools closed she had a couple more units of material to cover, but the College Board removed those units from the test so she could focus mostly on review. She met with her students every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to prepare for the test.

“It wasn’t the same obviously reviewing at home versus at school,” she said. “It was hard for students to focus, but they obviously persevered and pressed through and had some really good results.”

Phillippe’s students earned an 87.1 percent passing rate, higher than the state average of 64.6 percent passing and the 69 percent global passing rate.

“When the scores came out and we had 87 percent passing and only four students out of 31 didn’t pass, I was super excited and super proud and I know my kids worked hard all year, not just in March and April for that.

Like most tests, the biology exam was reduced from 3.5 hours to 45 minutes and was only free response questions with multiple choice questions eliminated.

Marion calculus teacher Doug Porter said he estimated his students completed around 1,500 work packets in the weeks leading up to the test.

“I think by the time the actual test came, there really were no surprises,” he said. “They were totally prepared. I don’t think they were shocked at all when it came to the actual test.”

All 16 students in one of Porter’s classes passed, with 11 receiving a 5, the highest grade possible. All but one of the 23 students in his other class passed as well, with 10 students receiving a 5.

Porter said he was particularly proud of two of his students who had technical difficulties lead to their tests not being submitted properly at first. Both students retook the test in early June, and both passed.

“Imagine that you’ve worked hard, studied hard for weeks and weeks and weeks and then their test didn’t go through...” he said. “You can just imagine that anxiety they were going through, but they did it and they passed with flying colors. I’m just really proud of our kids, especially our seniors.”

Porter is normally coaching tennis during the spring, but he said the cancelled season and stay at home order allowed him to devote six to eight hours daily to answering students’ questions, giving feedback and meeting with students to prepare for the exam.

Oak Hill High School AP language and composition and AP literature teacher Sara Brookshire said she was proud of how her students persevered through test prepping through eLearning and through the added pressure and anxiety of taking the exams at home with no proctor or technical support in a small timeframe.

“Not only did the modified exam preparation include specific strategies that pertained to the content and organization of their writing, but students were informed on what to do if their internet went down, or their home setting was distracting with siblings around,” she said. “Any high school student who can demonstrate college level skills in the middle of a global crisis (sometimes typing an entire essay on a phone) is to be commended – and the scores reflect that level of achievement.”

This year, 54 percent of the 24 Oak Hill sophomores in AP world history passed, higher than the 41 percent rate in 2019. Out of the 30 juniors who took AP language and composition, 53 percent passed this year, the same passage rate for Oak Hill juniors in 2019 but down from the school’s overall average of 66 percent in 2019.

Of the 27 seniors taking AP literature and composition, 63 percent passed, and 75 percent of the eight AP art students passed.

“The successful performances of Oak Hill AP students speaks to their work ethic and the commitment to finishing what they started by completing difficult exams in an unexpected format,” Brookshire said. “Oak Hill students are well prepared by AP teachers who work hard to introduce and promote higher level analysis skills in the AP courses. I do think the pandemic had an impact on the way that students took the actual exam, but I believe that students were confident on exam day and they performed as expected – which was extremely well.”

She noted Oak Hill is adding additional AP US government, economics and music theory courses in the 2020-21 school year.

All three teachers said the College Board provided excellent resources, including practice questions and videos, to help students prepare for the new formatting of the exams.

Mississinewa High School Principal Steve Quaderer said overall, 36 percent of students who took an AP exam this year passed their exam, and 22 students were named National AP Scholars for their efforts. A total of 407 tests among 20 AP courses were taken by Ole Miss students this year.

Of the 21 AP computer science principles students, 85.7 percent passed, and Ole Miss reported a 57.1 percent passing rate in 2D art, 75 percent passing rate in seminar, 45.5 percent passing rate in statistics and 38.7 percent passing rate in biology.

“We were extremely proud of the results for Mississinewa High School. We have been recognized for our work in AP at the national and state level so we continue to have high expectations for our students and staff,” Quaderer said. “Students and staff worked very hard to overcome not being together on a daily basis to prepare for the test. The pandemic provided huge obstacles to daily instruction but our teachers and students rose to the occasion and had outstanding success.”

In addition, Mississinewa’s Isaac Alsup was awarded the first Mississinewa AP Capstone Diploma by earning scores of 3 or higher in AP seminar, AP research and on four additional AP exams. Classmate Jenna Dawson was awarded the AP seminar and research certificate by earning scores of 3 or higher in AP seminar and AP research, and four additional 2020 seniors joined Alsup and Dawson to make up the inaugural AP Capstone program cohort.

“We are very proud of the work that Mississinewa High School is doing in the area of College and Career Readiness,” Assistant Superintendent Lezlie Winter said. “We are committed to preparing students to have the knowledge, skills and disposition necessary to succeed in postsecondary opportunities. This is being accomplished through many diverse and inclusive programs at Mississinewa High School--the Advanced Placement Program being one of them.

Winter thanked her staff and students for their high achievement, adding that only 21 schools in the State of Indiana offer what she calls a “prestigious sequence of courses,” Advanced Placement seminar and Advanced Placement research.

The AP Capstone Diploma program allows students to learn research, critical thinking and presentation skills through researching topics of personal interest. Ole Miss students’ research varied from why people donate plasma to how violence in Quentin Tarantino films has evolved, according to a press release.

Out of the more than 1,900 schools participating in the AP Capstone Diploma program worldwide this year, approximately 9,800 students earned the AP Capstone Diploma and approximately 5,200 students earned the AP Seminar and Research Certificate.

“We are proud to recognize the outstanding achievements of students who participated in the AP Capstone Diploma program, and we continue to look forward to providing students with opportunities to explore their passions while building college-level academic and collaboration skills,” Quaderer said.

Eastbrook High School Principal Pat McLaughlin said 25 percent of students passed AP calculus this year, 50 percent passed AP US history, 69.6 percent passed AP English language and composition and 0 percent passed AP chemistry.

McLaughlin said all things considered, he is pleased with the scores this year and he is thankful the College Board made the adjustments to allow the test to go forward.

“Overall, our scores stayed pretty consistent. I think the students may have felt a little uncomfortable not testing at school, but the teachers did a good job of preparing them for the new testing format,” he said. “From year to year, our enrollment in these classes change as well as the students taking the exams. I think it is difficult to compare one group of students to another from year to year as they each have their own strengths.”

Madison-Grant High School Principal Ben Mann said 100 percent of students passed AP biology, psychology and calculus BC exams, but overall the school focuses more on dual credit classes than AP classes. Mann said M-G students earned 1,962 college dual credits in the 2019-20 school year.


News
featured
First school police K-9 joins Eastbrook

Students of Eastbrook Community Schools will experience a new normal when they return to school on August 11.

In addition to face coverings, socially distanced desks and assigned seats on the bus, students will see a new face in the hallways each day.

Max, a fifteen-month-old German Shepherd, will join Eastbrook school resource officer (SRO) Mike Spaulding to add another layer of security to the schools, said superintendent Brett Garrett.

“(Spaulding) is really a wonderful person,” Garrett said. “He’s really created and cultivated a great relationship with our students and staff. We’re hoping this only enhances that relationship.”

Max is the first police dog to work for any school in Grant County. The duo completed a four-week training in tracking and detecting narcotics and gunpowder this summer.

According to Garrett, Eastbrook schools have conducted many random drug searches since he was hired in 2012, and no drugs have been detected during those searches.

Although drugs have not recently been an issue at Eastbrook, Spaulding said having the K-9 in the buildings might deter students from bringing drugs or firearms to school.

“If you’re going to this school and you’re thinking about doing something you shouldn’t, maybe you’ll think twice,” Spaulding said. “It is just another tool to help enhance safety in the schools for the students and staff.”

Max and Spaulding will make visits to the high school, junior high, and elementary schools, completing random locker and vehicle sniffs.

In light of recent events, Eastbrook High School principal Pat McLaughlin said the most significant factor in bringing Max into the schools would be enhancing students’ comfortability with their SRO.

“I’m sure that there are some, just with the way that the world is right now, that just have an ill feeling towards law enforcement,” McLaughlin said. “We’re just hoping that we do everything we can to make sure kids feel comfortable approaching law officers, especially our SRO.”

Spaulding said he hopes Max can bridge the gap for students that may be fearful of law enforcement.

Max is social, friendly and has not been trained in aggression, so Spaulding said the students would be able to pet him.

Many of the students are familiar with Spaulding because he lives in their community, has children in three Eastbrook schools, and has worked in Eastbrook for the past four years.

Getting Max and training him and Spaulding was a significant financial investment, and McLaughlin said ECS hopes for it to be a long term deal.

Community donations fully covered the cost of obtaining and training Max.

“There’s a lot of support in the community, even during the COVID pandemic when some businesses were not getting as much income, they were still willing to donate,” Spaulding said. “They thought it was a good cause.”

Dr. Mary Gary, the owner of Hometown Animal Hospital in Gas City, committed to providing Max’s medical care at no cost to the school, Spaulding said.

If anyone wants to make a donation towards Max’s food and other expenses, contact Spaulding through Eastbrook Community Schools.


News
breaking featured
Police: 10-year-old Wabash boy killed by father

The father of a 10-year-old Wabash boy has been charged with murder.

Police arrested Anthony Dibiah, 37, on July 20 for his alleged involvement with the disappearance and killing of his biological son, Nakota Nakota “Fergie” Kelly.

According to the IMPD, just after 11:43 p.m. Sunday, July 19, officers were dispatched to check the welfare of a child in the 6000 block of West Lake South Drive in Indianapolis. The caller advised police he had received a call from Dibiah stating he had killed his son, according to a probable cause affidavit. Officers entered the residence and located a crime scene. Neither Anthony nor Nakota were located at the scene.

Homicide detectives, along with Child Abuse detectives responded and immediately began canvassing the area for witnesses. The Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency responded to assist in identifying and collecting potential forensic evidence. The Marion County Coroner’s Office responded and will assist with evidence located at the scene.

IMPD detectives continued to “work diligently in this case” attempting to locate Anthony Dibiah and Nakota Kelly. At approximately 4 p.m. Sunday, July 19, the Missouri State Highway Patrol located Anthony Dibiah with his vehicle, a white-colored Jeep Patriot near Highway 38 in Missouri, proceeding away from Indiana. IMPD detectives went to Missouri to follow up on the investigation.

“IMPD detectives have information and evidence to believe Kelly is deceased. They continue to search for the remains of Kelly. We are asking the community for assistance in this case,” said the IMPD’s release.

The IMPD asks that anyone with information or who may have seen Dibiah since Saturday, July 18 please contact Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477 or (TIPS).

A vigil was held in honor of Kelly during the late evening hours of Friday, July 31 at the Field of Dreams in Wabash during a little league game.

At the vigil, the American League Pirates planned to send off lighted lanterns immediately following the Pirates vs. Red Sox game at approximately 10 p.m.

“Please continue to keep this family, his teammates, and coaches in your prayers,” stated the Wabash Little League’s Facebook post.

Zimmerman said there would also be a temporary memorial set up at the ballpark, with his jersey number inscribed in chalk behind home plate.

“Both teams will also wear yellow armbands to further honor the loss of their former friend and ballplayer,” said Zimmerman.

This story will be updated as more information is released.


Local
Second Harvest tailgate distribution Tuesday

Second Harvest holding tailgate

Second Harvest Food Bank will hold a tailgate food distribution Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. at Five Points Mall, 1129 N. Baldwin Ave. in Marion.

Distribution is while supplies last. No IDs, proof of address or need required. All are welcome, regardless of home county. Second Harvest is requesting that attendees only go through the line one time.

If you are walking up or coming via a vehicle too small to carry a load of food, please plan to arrive an hour after the tailgate starts.

For more information, visit www.CureHunger.org.

ISDH updates COVID-19 count

The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Friday announced that 912 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private laboratories. That brings to 66,154 the total number of Indiana residents known to have the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 2,765 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 19 over the previous day. Another 200 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by ISDH and occurred over multiple days.


News
Madison-Grant gives additional re-entry, virtual learning guidance

The Madison-Grant United School Corporation is putting the finishing touches in place for preparation of the start of school next Friday, Aug. 7.

Superintendent Scott Deetz gave the school board an overview of the plan and recent updates at the regular meeting Monday.

The board approved an update revising the use of mask expectations in the plans to adhere to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s recent executive order. Masks will be required for all adults and students grades three through 12, and teachers and other employees in preschool through second grade will have the authority to require the younger students to wear masks in certain situations like while on the bus.

Deetz said the most recent guidance from the state advises that if desks are all facing the same direction and at least three to six feet apart, students will be permitted to remove their masks during instructional time but will be expected to put the masks back on if getting up and passing other students for any reason.

“I don’t think we would wish that upon our worst enemy, let alone our kiddos,” Deetz said of being forced to wear a mask for 7 hours straight. “We’re trying to create an environment that’s still encouraging to learn in, let alone teach in. That is very very clear in the executive order and I was thankful for that when it was finally published.”

The district has thousands of disposable masks ready and is also awaiting a shipment of reusable cloth masks from the state, Deetz said.

“Just like honestly with a device, if a kid breaks theirs three times in a week we may not be able to keep up with that demand,” he said. “There is still a responsibility of the family and student to bring one or supply a mask.”

Disciplinary actions for students not complying with mask rules will follow the typical discipline for any school conduct rule and be tailored based on the age of the student, according to Deetz.

Deetz said Madison-Grant has been constantly collaborating with both Madison and Grant counties’ health departments and other school districts to ensure best practices are being followed when reopening school.

“I want to state very clearly that as late as last week and in an email (Monday), both county’s health departments are in full support of schools reopening on time and are doing everything that they can to make sure that we have those supports in place, especially in the areas of contact tracing,” Deetz said. “And so I feel really really good about the situation that we are in so that we can be here for our families.”

While many teachers already returned to campus once buildings opened in early July, Deetz said teachers officially report Aug. 5 and will receive trainings from the district’s nurse on COVID-19 identification, care, screening and how to recognize and what to do if someone is symptomatic.

Deetz gave board members an overview of the junior/senior high, Park Elementary and Summitville Elementary reentry plans.

All buildings will have increased hand sanitizer stations, but Deetz said frequent hand washing will be preferred. There will be signs throughout the buildings going over screening questions and reminding of social distancing and hand washing.

Visitors will be allowed in classrooms only when they are there for a specific academic purpose, such as a college student teacher, and will be required to follow the same screening and other procedures in place for staff.

Water fountains will not be available for use, but there will be water bottle filling stations available and all students are encouraged to bring a water bottle. There will be no field trips allowed this year, with the exception of a plan for eighth- and ninth-graders to travel to Washington, D.C. in May or June of 2021 if travel is permitted at that time.

The junior/senior high will be on a traditional seven period schedule with classrooms adjusted for social distancing. There will be shorter passing periods with students required to wear masks while changing classes.

Band and choir classes will be held in the auditorium and/or cafeteria to give enough room for social distancing, and lunch at the junior/senior high will take place in the cafeteria, library and other areas if needed so that students can socially distance while eating.

In the elementary schools, recess periods will be staggered with one grade level at a time, and all students must immediately wash their hands upon coming in from the playground.

Deetz said as of Friday, July 24, about 6 percent of all students have signed up for Madison-Grant’s virtual learning option. Full-time virtual learning is a commitment made by each family, Deetz noted, and will be more structured than what was in place when schools were closed in the spring.

“This document wants to make it clear you should anticipate five or more hours of classroom work a day in our virtual option,” he said. “This is different than your snow day, eLearning day or what we kind of transitioned into in 24 hours on Friday, March 13. This is not your normal eLearning day. This is a virtual school option with regular amounts of work.”

Assignments will generally be given to students learning virtually in two-week intervals, with some high school classes having more rigorous schedules. While most of the virtual learning will not be tied to a timeframe and students can choose to get their five hours of work done at any point in a given day, Deetz said students will be expected to attend one scheduled meeting live with a teacher per scheduled class a week as well as one “homeroom” type check-in with a supervising teacher to review the student’s progress.

If a student attends all meetings and completes all work, they will be credited with five or 10 days of attendance depending on if they are on a weekly or biweekly cycle.

Failure to attend a scheduled instructional time or check-in with a supervising teacher will result in one absence per missed session. Failure to complete all assignments in a two-week period will result in one absence per 10 percent of missed assignments, and state laws regarding attendance will be enforced if necessary.

Parents or guardians are expected to serve as “learning coaches” and be the primary instructor/monitor during students’ virtual school days.

“This is a key difference between eLearning and our virtual school. There is skin in the game for the folks at home that choose to go to virtual learning. The key to success is they have to have an engaged adult monitoring, going over work and helping with that communication process,” Deetz said. “Now you can imagine that role is a bit more engaging as a second grade student the role of the learning coach as opposed to an 11th grader taking AP classes, but still there are some things in here that the learning coach is responsible for.”

Typical grading will be used for grades three through 12, while grades kindergarten through two will be monitored with a “competency based system that is watching for mastery of grade level standards,” according to the virtual learning plan.

If a parent wishes to transition their student from virtual learning to in-person or vice versa, they will have to wait for set transition points. Students kindergarten through eight can transition back and forth at the end of each quarter, while students grades nine through 12 will have to wait till the end of a semester to transition.

Students receiving instruction in-person who need to stay home for extended time due to quarantines or other reasons will be given eLearning work more similar to what is expected during a snow day and will not be fully transitioned into the virtual learning model, Deetz said.

For more information, all three schools’ reentry plans and the virtual learning plan can be found at www.mgusc.k12.in.us.