Educators: New grade system will be more fair

2014-03-16T00:00:00Z 2014-03-16T00:17:10Z Educators: New grade system will be more fairCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz maintains she does not intend to follow in her predecessor's footsteps and take over failing public schools.

Three years ago, previous Superintendent Tony Bennett made headlines when he used the state's accountability law to take over Gary Roosevelt high school and four schools in Indianapolis.

A private management company was appointed to operate Roosevelt, and Bennett signed a five-year contract which included a first year of evaluation of the school. Signed in 2011, that contract has two years left.

Instead of takeover, Ritz created the Division of Outreach to assist and support troubled schools. In Northwest Indiana, two outreach coordinators are working with more than 40 public schools which received a D or an F.

IDOE Assistant Superintendent Teresa Brown, who leads the division of Outreach and School Improvement, has placed schools in two categories — Focus and Priority. A focus school is a school receiving a D letter grade for one year. A priority school is a school receiving an F letter grade for one year or a combination of two Ds or D and F for two consecutive years.

Portage Superintendent Ric Frataccia has two schools which fell into the D category — Central and Paul Saylor elementary schools. Frataccia has said neither of those schools should be rated D, and the current grading system doesn't take into consideration how much students have grown. He said the new model will include a "categorical growth" aspect in 2015.

"I think that will be fair, more realistic and more transparent than the current model," he said.

"Kids are passing but they are not passing high enough. As opposed to three categories, do not pass, pass and pass-plus, there will be eight categories. The new model will take into consideration those students who just missed passing by a point or two. The teacher can help the child grow from one category to the next. Teachers also will get credit for working with that student and helping him to grow. We believe that will be much more transparent."

At the same time the state is revising the A-F grade system, legislators also have decided to scrap Common Core Standards and develop state standards.

More than three years ago, Common Core Standards were adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Bennett, the former Republican superintendent, spearheaded Indiana's adoption of Common Core with former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' support.

The nationally crafted academic standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade were developed to align what students learn and are able to demonstrate nationwide, and provide for uniform academic progress across the nation.

Last year, some Indiana leaders said the process moved too fast, and didn't allow public input.

Senate Bill 91, introduced in 2014, provides the State Board of Education will develop and adopt its standards and anything adopted prior to July 1, 2014, will be voided.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the House likely will assign the bill to a committee this month. It means Indiana will develop its own standards.

State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, issued a statement saying the Senate vote moves Indiana one step closer to officially voiding Common Core in Indiana and developing education standards crafted by Hoosiers.

“We’ve been debating the effectiveness of Common Core for two years now, conducting multiple legislative hearings, listening to hours of testimony and responding to the pleas of families who know our kids can do better and achieve more," Schneider said. “The bill voiding Common Core now goes to the House of Representatives, where I expect lively debate. Hopefully, my colleagues in the House will come to the same conclusion that members of the Senate did and pass Senate Bill 91 into law, finally putting a capstone on this important discussion so that Indiana can move forward with the best education standards.”

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