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Alan Petersime/Chalkbeat

Indiana’s A-F grade overhaul now awaits approval from Holcomb, feds

Indiana State Board of Education members have reached a tentative agreement about how to change the state’s A-F grade system to meet new federal law.

The board came to a consensus Tuesday on some of the new aspects of how Indiana is planning to measure schools going forward under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015.

The plan won’t be final until the state board completes its formal rulemaking process sometime in 2018, but Tuesday’s work session was the last board discussion before the plan heads to the governor for his approval later this month. It’s due to federal officials Sept. 15.

State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said on Tuesday that getting something on the table now — even informally — is important so schools and teachers have a sense of what’s coming.

“This school year we are under the new accountability system,” McCormick said. “I’m not sure we’re doing the field any favors by kicking that can down the road.”

The ESSA plan proposed several major changes to how A-F grades would be calculated. We outline them below:

Chronic Absenteeism

The plan creates a factor within A-F grades for elementary and middle schools that has nothing to do with state tests. The state is proposing looking at chronic absenteeism, where it considers how many students attend for 96 percent of the school year and how many students improve attendance. The goal is to have 80 percent of kids meet one of those criteria.

Eventually, the state plans to create surveys that examine student and teacher satisfaction, but those will take more take time to develop.

Learn more: Indiana has a new plan for schools and A-F grades. Here’s how it’s different from No Child Left Behind.


The plan also creates a factor within A-F grades that specifically looks at students learning English as a new language. The factor would consider students’ proficiency as well as how much they improve each year.

Learn more: New federal rules are pushing Indiana to explore giving state tests in Spanish

Data reporting

Under ESSA, schools must now report results for specific groups of students, including English-learners and low-income students, so long as they meet a minimum group size. That minimum would move from 30 students to 20 under the new rules, which could mean more students get included in A-F grades going forward.

Test score improvement

Board members agreed to continue using the state’s test score growth measure in the plan to show how students are improving — or slipping — on state tests from year to year. The measure was used for the first time on 2016 grades. However, the ESSA plan includes a note to re-examine the particulars of the growth formula once Indiana introduces the new ILEARN exam, set to be given for the first time in 2019.

College and career readiness

The state already includes the number of students who take dual credit classes, pass Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, and earn workplace certifications in A-F grades. But the board says it will reassess its goal that just 25 percent of students in a school must hit one of the three targets to get full credit in their school grades.

That likely won’t happen until the state can iron out issues over new dual credit teaching requirements.

Learn more: How changes to dual credit and federal law are affecting schools and putting Indiana education officials in a bind

Overall A-F grade formula

Last month, a divided state board agreed to consider altering the state’s grade formula to value test passing rates more than how much kids improve from year to year. In the end, based on feedback from community members and educators, the board decided to keep the current set-up — weighing growth and proficiency equally.

That means, considering the five criteria that would now make up A-F grades, a school’s formula could look something like this (the percentages would change depending on the school’s population and the data available):

Elementary/middle school:

  • Test proficiency: 42.5 percent
  • Test score growth: 42.5 percent
  • Chronic Absenteeism: 5 percent
  • English Language Proficiency: 10 percent

High school:

  • Test proficiency: 15 percent
  • Test score growth: 15 percent
  • Graduation Rate: 30 percent
  • College & Career Readiness: 30 percent
  • English Language Proficiency: 10 percent

Learn more: Goodbye, focus and priority schools: Hello, new ways of supporting Indiana’s struggling students, whether their school is an A or an F.

The feds have a new definition for graduation rate, and Indiana’s general diploma doesn’t count

You can find the state’s entire ESSA plan here and all of Chalkbeat’s ESSA coverage here.