Student test scores would play a bigger role in determining school A-F grades under new draft rules approved by the Indiana State Board of Education, despite concerns from some board members and educators from across the state.
The rules, approved 7-4, are only proposals at this point. Next they go into a formal rulemaking process that begins with opportunities for public comment. After revisions, the state board will vote on final A-F grading rules so it can go into effect for 2018-19. The vote would probably be this summer.
Steve Baker, principal at Bluffton High School, said he was frustrated and disappointed that the board didn’t vet some of the changes with educators or have a public discussion before working them into the draft that would begin rulemaking.
“Not one educator I talked with knew about this,” Baker said. “Yet this plan will affect every school in Indiana.”
State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who is a member of the board, voted in favor of the changes. But the rules are far from final, she said, and she doesn’t necessarily agree with them in their current form.
“Do I think it’s going to change? Yes,” McCormick said “I think it’s a good thing for people to know what the board’s thinking.”
The changes come as Indiana works to create a plan comply with new federal education law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The vote followed a contentious conversation that took hours. Initially, board member Gordon Hendry suggested the board table their vote until they could discuss the grading changes further. Last week, educators and some board members were caught unaware by some of the grade formula changes, which hadn’t received a discussion in public.
“Some of the language didn’t receive the proper discussion before being crafted,” Hendry said. “The cart was a little bit before the horse, and there should have been, in my opinion, a full board discussion before pen was put to paper.”
Chad Ranney, an attorney for the board, said some board members asked him about making some changes in the A-F model. When he saw the number of changes coming through, Ranney said he decided to solicit feedback from the entire board.
It’s not clear which board member saw what email when, particularly over the winter holidays, but some did not offer input and were surprised when they learned the new rules would be up for a vote in January without additional discussion.
Ultimately, a majority of board members wanted to stick with the new proposed rules, arguing that they had plenty of time to weigh in.
The proposed formula would give more weight to the number of students who pass tests and stop measuring how much high school students improve their test scores. Also, two new measures would be added: “Well-rounded” for elementary and middle schools and “on-track” for high schools.
The “well-rounded” piece is calculated based on state science and social studies tests given once in elementary and middle school. The “on-track” measure would be calculated based on whether high school students, by the end of their freshman year, have received at least 10 course credits and have received no more than one F in either English, math, science or social studies. For high schools, improvement in test scores would be removed entirely in 2023, as would the “college and career-readiness” measure.