Education

State Board Of Education Meets Today

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October 15, 2014 — Ray Steele, Network Indiana — On the same day they will vote to approve last year‘s A-to-F grades for schools, the State Board of Education is expected to move forward with a new way of calculating those grades.

The board meets this morning to vote on the formula that was recommended by an advisory panel, a formula that must then be approved by the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January. Unlike the way the grades were calculated for the 2013-14 school year, the new formula will use a different way to take into account how much students grow year over year as much as the overall performance of students on standardized tests.

“What we are trying to move from is a complicated way of measuring growth that was instituted in 2012 to a measure that allows parents to compare their child‘s growth over the prior year,” said Ashlyn Nelson, associate professor at IU‘s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We are trying to move to a system where we are assigning grades to schools based on a student‘s movement over time,” rather than comparing students to other groups of students, Nelson says.

The formula was first revisited last year after it was revealed that the staff of then-state Superintendent Tony Bennett altered the formula in 2012 after it became apparent that the Christel House charter school, which had long been touted by Bennett as a model school, would receive a grade of C. Christel House‘s benefactor, Christel DeHaan, was a campaign contributor to Bennett, though the change in the formula that brought Christel House up to an A also benefitted other schools. Christel House dropped to an F in 2013.

Current Superintendent Glenda Ritz has long opposed A-to-F grades, but her department has to issue them under state law.   Nelson says it will be difficult to compare year-to-year grades this year given the change in the grading formula, as well as changes in academic standards and the assessment for those standards. Indiana adopted new standards this year after the legislature forced an end to the adoption of the Common Core standards, which means students will take a new ISTEP next spring.

“Will the change in grade be due to a change in the performance of the schools, a change in the assessment mechanism or a change in the grading formula? We don‘t know,” she said. However, under the old formula, a school could be penalized for below average growth even if there was growth, though it was below the top 50-percent of school growth in the state. “If you remove that from the system and also change the assessment, it‘s possible that will see big swings in grades for some schools.”

State board members and others have expressed frustration over trying to find a system that works for all the state’s schools.

The board is also expected to discuss pre-K accreditation, as five counties get ready to start the state‘s pilot pre-K program. Also, the board is scheduled to continue looking at the future of schools that have been taken over by the state, including Arlington High School in Indy as well as schools in Gary.

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