GUEST COMMENTARY: Public should question new Indiana grading formula for schools

2012-11-04T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Public should question new Indiana grading formula for schoolsBy the Northwest Indiana Public School Study Council nwitimes.com
November 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

By the Northwest Indiana Public School Study Council

The Indiana Department of Education's A-F grading system is of great concern to region superintendents. What appears to be an easier grading system for parents to understand their school's performance by assigning a letter grade of A-F has become a complex system of statistics that is not easily understood or explained as a valid way to measure student achievement.

A review of school grades and the formula used to determine those grades should have the public questioning how those grades were determined:

  • The state is using complex statistical methods, not only to decide if they students are passing, but if they are passing by a high enough margin.
  • Because the growth score compares students with other students across the state, a student whose score increases 25 points might be high growth one year, but this same 25-point growth the following year might be considered low growth depending on the group to which the student is being compared. This does not make sense and does not measure growth toward a fixed target of performance.
  • Additionally, the state formula does not follow IC 20-31-8-2. “The department shall assess improvement in the following manner: (1) Compare each school and each school corporation with its own prior performance and not to the performance of other schools or school corporations; (2) Compare the results … with benchmarks and indicators of performance established in the plan for the same school; (3) Compare the results for a school by comparing each student’s results for each grade with the student’s prior year results, with an adjustment for student mobility rate."  Nowhere does it state to compare students with other students, and it specifically states to not compare schools and school corporations with other schools and school corporations.  This interpretation should mean that a criterion referenced system is to be established, not a system built on the normal curve that compares students among other students and ultimately schools against other schools.

Last January, all 35 speakers in the only public hearing on the A-F plan opposed the plan, including representatives of all education groups (private, public and charter schools), as well as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.  An unwillingness on the part of the IDOE to collaborate with educators or to listen to business leaders regarding this A-F grading plan is troubling. 

Teachers and administrators support accountability measures and are working hard to guarantee that every child achieves and grows every day. Hoosiers should be careful on these grade designations. While a school is an A school this year, there are factors in the formula that could change a school’s grade drastically in one year based on statistical comparisons that are inappropriate and do not follow current Indiana law. Additionally, a school that received a D this year may have been a B if the current law was properly followed.

Educators and business leaders across the state want a school accountability system that accurately reflects the performance of their schools.

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