INDIANAPOLIS | The Senate Education Committee approved legislation Wednesday that could end Indiana's A-F school grading system, permit some illegal immigrants to continue receiving in-state college tuition and give certain school corporations a say in whether new charter schools can open.
Senate Bill 416, which now goes to the full chamber, terminates A-F school grades and requires the State Board of Education to develop new designations of school performance based on overall student growth and achievement instead of student growth compared to peers.
"I feel that the current A-F system is incredibly complicated and difficult to understand," said state Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, the sponsor of the legislation.
A weighted average of several factors including standardized test scores, career readiness test scores and graduation rates are used to calculate high school letter grades. Elementary schools can earn bonuses or penalties based on student test results that can improve or reduce their letter grades.
Glenda Ritz, the Democratic state superintendent of public instruction, testified in favor of Yoder's plan to rethink school evaluations.
She said replacing the current A-F grades with a more transparent and easy-to-understand model is an "opportunity to strengthen Indiana's school accountability system."
The legislation was approved 11-0.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, sponsored two other education proposals that are both headed to the full Senate following 8-4 committee votes.
Senate Bill 207 allows Indiana residents who are illegal immigrants to continue paying in-state tuition if they were enrolled in college prior to enactment of a 2011 state law barring illegal immigrants from qualifying for in-state tuition.
Rogers estimated that up to 200 students statewide may be affected.
Senate Bill 423 requires a charter school sponsor to obtain permission from the local school corporation before being allowed to open a new charter school if more than 50 percent of students in the school corporation already attend a charter school.
About 35 percent of Gary students currently attend a charter school, the highest level in the state. Rogers said she hopes to change the legislation to require school board permission if 25 percent of students attend a charter school.
Rogers said she's not trying to cap the number of charter schools.
"I prefer to see it as another step in the authorizing process," Rogers said. "This gives you an indication of the respect that I think needs to be accorded to a school board."