The Select Commission on Education of the Indiana General Assembly will have another meeting Friday. On the agenda: public testimony on the rules that the State Board of Education adopted earlier this year for grading schools on an A-to-F scale.
Of course, the state board had a public hearing back in January, before it adopted the A-to-F rules. What’s the difference? For one thing, several of the legislators who sit on the Select Committee are likely to actually attend Friday’s meeting.
At the January hearing, the Indy Star’s Scott Elliott reported, only one state board member was present, and state Superintendent Tony Bennett wasn’t there either. Apparently it’s standard procedures for board members to skip rule hearings and rely on staff to tell them what they missed. Even so, when the board is fundamentally remaking the state’s accountability system for schools, you would think members could show up and listen to what the public says.
Pretty much every person and group that weighed in at the January hearing – from the Indiana Urban Schools Association to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, from public school superintendents to charter-school advocates – urged the board to hold off on adopting the grading metrics.
Critics argued that 1) the rules are too complicated; 2) they put too much emphasis on student performance and not enough on improvement; and 3) they rely on a measure of growth that ensures that some students and schools will get low marks, whether they deserve them or not. And, as Elliott and Russ Simnick of the Indiana Public Charter School Association showed, the metrics will make it hard for schools serving lots of poor kids – including urban charter schools – to get good grades.
The state board adopted the rules anyway, reasoning that they were an improvement over the old system, which was based on test scores and year-to-year improvement in school passing rates as opposed to year-to-year growth in student performance.
Will arguments to the Select Commission, made up of members of the House and Senate education committees, make any difference? Probably not; it seems that this horse has left the barn. Bennett and DOE staff made the case for the grading system at a commission meeting back in April, and lawmakers raised few questions then.
Friday’s meeting starts at 1 p.m. at the Statehouse. It’s scheduled to be webcast live; select the video stream from the House Chamber.