Pharos-Tribune

State News

October 30, 2013

A-F review panel wants more data, testing involved

Proposal: Keep school letter grades, but change how they're assigned.

(Continued)

“I think there are some out there (already) gaming the system and shame on them,” said Bluffton High School Principal Steve Baker.

The panel’s goal was to find a formula that could measure how well schools — and their teachers — are performing, but the task wasn’t easy.

Under a mandate by the federal government to come up with a grading system for schools, Indiana and other states are struggling to figure out a way to measure academic progress of students who range widely in their abilities.

“The things we’re looking at — the various ways to measure growth — are still in their infancy,” said panel member Derek Redelman, an education policy analyst with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “There is no commonly accepted way of doing it.”

The current A-F grading system has been a lightning rod for criticism since it was rolled out two years ago. During the 2013 session, legislators mandated the State Board of Education come up with a new formula that focused more on measuring individual student growth and less on how those students compared to their peers across the state.

The issue was elevated significantly over the summer, following reports by the Associated Press that Ritz’s predecessor, Republican Tony Bennett, covertly changed the A-F grading system in a way that elevated the scores of 156 schools, including an Indianapolis charter school founded by a wealthy Republican donor.

Ritz, the only statewide elected Democrat in the Statehouse, escalated the A-F controversy even more last week when she filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Education. Ritz contends the bipartisan, appointed board acted illegally when its members signed a letter asking Republican legislative leaders take the A-F grading system away from her department and turn it over to the Legislative Services Agency, the non-partisan research arm of the General Assembly.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a Republican, has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

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