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Books on a shelf in a classroom at Crispus Attucks High School, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana. — April 2019 — Photo by Alan Petersime/Chalkbeat

Books on a shelf in a classroom at Crispus Attucks High School, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana. — April 2019 — Photo by Alan Petersime/Chalkbeat

Photo by Alan Petersime/Chalkbeat

Half of Indiana schools are meeting state expectations, new federal rating shows

About half of Indiana’s schools are considered on track to meet state expectations, according to federal ratings released Friday.

Among those schools falling short of state goals, 34% were found to be “approaching” expectations and 11%, or 200 schools statewide, received the lowest ranking, “did not meet” expectations.

These ratings offer the public a first look at how schools performed in 2019, as state A-F grades remain tied up in an effort to pass a hold harmless exemption to shield teachers and schools from the effects of low test scores.

This marks the second year that Indiana has used two measuring sticks to evaluate schools, after adding the federal measure in 2018 to comply with new federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act without changing state grades.

Database: Find your Indiana school’s 2019 federal accountability rating

The federal formula heavily weighs test results but also scores schools based on whether they are on track to meet the state’s long-term goals in six additional other areas: growth scores, graduation rates, attendance rates, the percentage of students who earn honors diplomas, gaps in passing rates among student groups, and progress for English-language learners.

The majority of charter schools, 73%, fell short of meeting expectations. Typically charter schools are located in urban districts, such as Indianapolis Public Schools, where 87% of all schools received one of the bottom two ratings, or Fort Wayne, where that percentage was 79%. All of the seven Gary Community schools that received a federal rating also fell short of meeting expectations. (Gary Middle School was not rated.)

Much like the year prior, there were few standout schools statewide in 2019, with the majority of schools falling to the middle of the rating scale. Fewer than 5% of schools were found to exceed expectations.

New results aren’t directly comparable to 2018, because the state altered the measure to use categories instead of letter grades. But in 2018, most Indiana schools received a B or C.

As in 2018, this year’s data showed that many schools are missing the mark when it comes to serving some of the state’s most vulnerable students. In some schools, it’s hard to say how students of color are faring because there are so few non-white students that the school does not receive a rating in that area. Of the schools that received a rating for how they educate students of color, most are falling short of expectations.

Nearly two-thirds of schools did not meet expectations for their special education students. Only 17 schools, less than 1%, were given a top rating in special education.

The majority of schools were “approaching” or “not meeting” expectations when it comes to educating students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, those who are English language learners, black students, and Hispanic students.

Twenty-three schools were given a top rating for educating black students. Of those, five were schools in Evansville and four were schools in Carmel — areas in which 15% and 3% of students are black, respectively. By contrast, nearly 60% of schools statewide were considered to be meeting or exceeding expectations for their white students.

State A-F grades, which rely almost entirely on test scores, have a greater impact on schools because they factor into teacher evaluations and can trigger state intervention. The federal measures can prompt required school improvement plans and help determine how federal resources are allocated to the lowest-performing schools. But the federal yardstick also provides an alternate way to judge schools — one that places less weight on standardized test scores.

The federal measure is especially telling this year because it won’t be affected by the hold harmless, which state lawmakers are poised to pass this month. The exemption would allow schools to use their 2018 scores instead of their 2019 ones, which dropped statewide in the first year of the ILEARN exam.

Superintendent Jennifer McCormick has repeatedly called for the state to use only one measure to evaluate schools, expressing her support for using the federal formula instead of state letter grades.

“To better serve schools for future successes … it is important we develop a single modernized state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate, and transparent,” McCormick said in a statement responding to the 2019 federal ratings. “Our kids, schools, teachers, and parents deserve it.”

State lawmakers previously said that Indiana’s grades are the better option because they reflect Indiana law and policies, not federal ones. Top legislators seem poised to discuss decoupling teacher evaluations from state grades and changing how high schools are evaluated, but haven’t indicated whether they will consider scrapping state grades.