INDIANAPOLIS | A Statehouse committee room seemed more like a classroom Thursday as the group of education and community leaders charged with developing a new rating system for Indiana schools met for the first time.
For nearly five hours, the 17-member Accountability System Review Panel worked to understand the myriad of items that must be included in a school grading system to comply with state and federal law.
For example, the same rating system must be used by all public, charter and state-accredited private schools; be based on student achievement and provide rewards, like teacher bonuses, for schools that perform well and sanctions, such as state takeover, for schools with lower ratings.
Officials from the Indiana Department of Education explained if the state enacts an accountability system that doesn't meet all the requirements, Indiana could lose billions in federal education funding.
Portage Township Schools Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia believes he and his fellow committee members are up to the task of developing an effective school-grading model.
"Working through the two chairs -- the superintendent (Glenda Ritz) and (Southwest Allen Schools Superintendent) Steve Yager -- I think they'll do a great job moving us forward," Frataccia said.
Ritz, the Democratic state superintendent of public instruction, said she is approaching the process with an open mind about its ultimate conclusion.
"There's no preconceived notion of how this is going to come out," Ritz said.
The panel is required to recommend an accountability system to the General Assembly and State Board of Education by Nov. 1.
The governor-appointed state education board then will revise the proposal as it sees fit before approving the new rating system by July 1.
State lawmakers agreed earlier this year to overhaul Indiana's A-F system for rating schools. The project took on new urgency this summer after former State Superintendent Tony Bennett was alleged to have manipulated the current grading system, in part to boost the grade of a favored charter school.