The latest A-F school accountability grades in Indiana are finally out, accompanied by the customary grumbling or bragging.
The grades sparked controversy after former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett ordered changes last year that benefited Christel House Academy, an Indianapolis charter school supported by top GOP donor Christel DeHaan. The school received an F this year.
This year, two of the state's top recipients of school vouchers, Ambassador Christian Academy in Gary and St. Stanislaus School in East Chicago, each received an F.
State Board of Education member Tony Walker, a Gary attorney, took issue with his board's D grade for the Hammond Academy of Science & Technology.
"I know for a fact that HAST didn't receive some points because they don't have a 12th grade. We need to treat all schools the same," Walker said at last Friday's board meeting, when the results were released.
Unusual circumstances like HAST's will always prompt speculation about the fairness of the rules. But we've seen enough tinkering with the rules already, as the Bennett scandal shows.
Leave the standards where they are, rather than attempting to fine-tune the criteria. Instead, focus on putting all this data to good use.
School accountability data are useful in evaluating teachers and schools. This data should be seen as merely among many factors, not the only lens through which to evaluate schools and teachers. But the grades and the data behind them do provide useful information on students' progress.
Likewise, the data should be used for the most important purpose — to help determine where remedial help is needed. Standardized tests are a diagnostic tool, so it stands to reason that prescriptions for extra assistance will be necessary when test results are released.
The Indiana General Assembly and state education officials should focus on education reforms that provide remedial help — including summer school, if necessary — for students who need it.
Lake Station Superintendent Dan DeHaven was dismayed by the D grade at Edison Jr.-Sr. High School.
"We have changed our approaches at the high school," he said. DeHaven outlined a number of changes, including the use of an outside consultant to work with the English department. "It's part of our professional development for teachers," he said.
Training for faculty is useful, but the primary focus should be on bringing up to speed the students whose scores are sub-par.