Changes may be coming to school accountability A-F grades

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Getting an A on the state’s school accountability grading system may soon have new criteria. The Indiana State Board of Education has advanced changes to the A to F formula and many educators are not pleased with the proposal.

The current system lets communities know how well a school is performing. The school board wants the grades to better reflect success after high school. To do that, they’re proposing the formula put less weight on standardized testing such as the ISTEP, or upcoming ILEARN.

“So what we’re looking to do is lower the amount of weight that’s given to standardized testing and evaluate them based upon the outcomes of students once they actually graduate,” explained board member Tony Walker. “To assure that kids aren’t just getting diplomas and aren’t able to matriculate successfully in higher ed and have skill sets to sustain themselves in employment.”

The new system has a “well-rounded” indicator for middle-school and elementary schools, focused on science and social studies scores.

There’s an “on-track” indicator for high schools, focused on where students stand at the end of freshman year. Students would need at least 10 course credits. They also couldn’t get more than one F in English, math, science or social studies.

Southwest Allen County Schools superintendent Phil Downs doesn’t like the proposal.

“Why?” he asked. “Why does the state need to know all that? I mean that’s really a question. Why does the state need to know that? We’re already working with those families. It’s just more time and work for us to have to report something out that I’m not sure what they gain from that.”

The new A to F system would give 10 percent weight to being “on track”. It’d decrease the ISTEP’s weight from 40 percent (20 percent proficiency plus 20 percent growth) to 25 percent (now called academic achievement). Graduation rate and college and career readiness would remain the same, both at 30 percent. The new system adds in English language proficiency at 5 percent.

Downs expressed he’s not a fan of the A to F accountability grading system in general.

“I would argue that A to F is awful for Indiana period that we should get rid of the entire system,” he said. “It hasn’t worked and they’ve had to fiddle with it a bunch because they haven’t liked the results that it’s put out. Anytime you try to apply a single letter to any school, you ignore the fact that there are so many differences between the schools that it’s not a fair representation of those buildings. In the end it causes problems for small communities trying to attract people to move to the community or trying to attract a business.”

Walker said the weights aren’t final, and educators should reserve judgement until they see the new system in action. He said they compliment the new graduation pathways which the board passed in December. The pathways create tougher, more defined graduation requirements for high school students to better prepare them for post-grad life.

The public gets its say on the proposed A to F changes before the final vote. They can either attend upcoming public meetings or email sboe_comment@sboe.in.gov.

If the proposed changes are approved, they’ll be put in place for the 2018-2019 academic year.