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 State Chamber Names KHS ‘Best Buy’ School

December 19, 2007 - Knightstown High School, Tri Jr.-Sr. High School, and Eastern Hancock High School were among 136 high schools named "best buys" in an annual report issued last week by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The ICOC's Indiana's Best Buys report, now in its ninth edition, recognizes Hoosier high schools that "excelled academically while providing good value for Hoosier tax dollars." The list was developed based on results of a study Indiana State University made of 350 Indiana public high schools and charter schools for which data was available.

Looking at ISTEP-Plus scores, graduation rates, SAT participation rates and average scores, and Advanced Placement passing scores - information obtained from the Indiana Department of Education - a "quality index" (QI) was calculated for each high school. Whether a school was deemed a "best buy" then depended on how its quality index compared to its total expenditures per pupil, as determined by money a school corporation received from the state's General Fund, as well as their capital projects and debt service funds.

The QIs of the 350 high schools reviewed for the ICOC's report ranged from a high of 2.8569 (Carmel High School) to a low of -3.6841 (Lew Wallace High School - Gary). The lowest per pupil expenditure was $6,361.73 (Signature School - Evansville), while the highest was $15,706.30 (Hebron High School).

A high school qualified as a "best buy" if its quality index was above the state median of 0.079294 and its expenditures were below the statewide median of $10,196 per student. Knightstown (QI=0.1978, $9,876.93), Tri (QI=0.6251, $8,095.76) and Eastern Hancock (QI=0.4105, $,686.37) qualified as "best buys" under this method of determination, as did Shenandoah (QI=0.2689, $9,080.43) and Rushville Consolidated (QI=0.1602, $8,673.27) high schools.

Schools could also qualify as "best buys" if their quality index ranking was at least 20 percent higher than their expenditures ranking. Although its quality index was below the state average, a fourth Henry County school, Blue River Valley Jr.-Sr. High School (QI=-0.2200, $8,032.17), qualified for the "best buy" honor under this second method.

"The Indiana Best Buys report is about celebrating excellence and encouraging improvement," ICOC President Kevin Brinegar said. "Indiana high schools have the necessary resources to be among the best in the world. However, to be the best, everyone must work continuously analyzing, reforming and/or maintaining quality instructional programs. Those schools on this list are doing just that, and their communities are reaping the benefits."

"I am thrilled with the news," KHS Principal Raymond Willsey said in a press release issued last week. "This distinction is the result of the hard work and dedication of the citizens of the C.A. Beard Memorial School Corporation, the (school board), and, most importantly, the students and staff of (KHS). We pride ourselves on striving for educational excellence, working together, and sustaining an educational course that affords our students limitless opportunities that lead them toward becoming successful and productive members of society."

Tri's inclusion on the ICOC's list also drew praise from South Henry School Corporation Superintendent John Magers. "I am very proud that Tri Jr. Sr. High School has been recognized by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as a Best Buy school," he said. "The Chamber is identifying Tri for its quality education and the district's accountability to the taxpayers. It is always our intent to provide continual school improvement and wisely use every dollar of taxpayers support."

"Eastern Hancock works very hard to use our resources most effectively and efficiently while focusing on student achievement," Eastern Hancock Superintendent Ellen Welk told The Banner. "Our expenditures per student are one of the lowest in the state while our student achievement data shows continuous improvement. Our priorities are clear and we have the support of the Eastern Hancock Community."

In a letter posted on the Chamber's website, the ICOC's Brinegar said the Best Buys report is not intended to criticize schools or school corporations. "Its purpose is to recognize those public high schools that are providing exceptional educational value for the tax dollars they receive," he said. "Best Buy schools are those that offer all of us, as taxpayers and stakeholders in the public education system, the greatest return in terms of student achievement for our educational dollar."

In past reports, the ICOC calculated total expenditures per student based only on revenue from the state's General Fund. This year, however, consideration was also given to capital projects and debt service funds, which come from local property taxes.

"This adjustment was needed to provide an even more accurate picture of how wisely, or unwisely, tax dollars are being spent," Brinegar said. "We've been seeing an increase in use of these capital projects and debt service funds for standard operating costs - for such things as utilities or loans - and wanted to acknowledge that trend. Furthermore, with the widespread impact of high property tax bills on many Hoosiers, and acknowledging that local schools are a significant benefactor of that revenue, we felt it only appropriate to take a stricter look at school spending."


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