State Board Looking At School Grading System

State Board Looking At School Grading System

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It’s only in preliminary discussion, but the State Board of Education will check with the Attorney General before proceeding with a possible change to the A-to-F grading system for schools.

The board voted unanimously to seek an opinion from Attorney General Greg Zoeller after the board’s staff attorney said he wasn’t sure whether one of the 12 options for accountability was allowed under state law. The option in question is one favored by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s Department of Education. To compensate for potential drops in ISTEP scores since the exam was longer due to the state’s new academic standards, Ritz’s department wants to have the ability to use the better of a school’s grades from either of the last two school years, with Ritz citing a projected five-percent drop in ISTEP scores due to changes to the 2014-15 exam. “Schools would be known as failing, when in actuality that’s not the case,” Ritz said.

Sarah O’Brien, who was elected the State Board’s new vice chair at the meeting, thought that talk of changing the A-F formula in any way was premature, since grades won’t be out for months. “I am a little confused as to why we are having this conversation now before we have the scores back,” O’Brien said. “It feels like we have kind of already decided that our kids are not capable and did fail.”

Ritz said she wasn’t trying to get the board to choose from one of 12 options on A-to-F. She says she just wanted board members to have data in front of them. “We are going to be having this conversation at some point, and we need to begin having this conversation now,” Ritz said. Ritz’s office had previously argued for a one-year pause in using A-F grades as part of teacher evaluation due to the ISTEP changes. She says the U.S. Department of Education has given Indiana and some other states the flexibility to make such changes without jeopardizing the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.