Indiana school corporation grades align with poverty too

The Indiana State Board of Education approved A-to-F grades for public school corporations this week and – no surprise – the grades reflect poverty, just like the grades for individual schools do.

Among the state’s 289 school corporations, most low-poverty corporations got As and Bs. But nearly three-quarters of high-poverty corporations got a grade of C or worse.

School corporation grades reflect the same criteria that go into grades for individual schools: 2013 performance and growth on standardized tests for students in elementary and middle schools, and test results, graduation rates and “college and career readiness” factors for high schools. Corporation grades are prorated by the number of students in elementary-middle and high schools.

For corporations, I used the same methodology that Matthew Di Carlo of the Shanker Institute used last year to show that Indiana school grades were correlated with poverty. Corporations were divided into four quartiles according to the percentage of students who receive free or reduced-price lunches.


You can download a spreadsheet with the data here. Results include:

  • Top quartile (5-36 percent FRL): 50 corporations received As, 16 received Bs and six received Cs.
  • Second quartile (36-45 percent FRL): 20 corporations received As, 32 received Bs, 19 received Cs and one received a D.
  • Third quartile (45-55 percent FRL): 19 corporations received As, 19 received Bs, 30 received Cs and four received Ds.
  • Bottom quartile (55-95 percent FRL): five corporations received As, 15 received Bs, 36 received Cs, 13 received Ds and four received Fs.

Three of the four corporations that got Fs – Indianapolis Public Schools, Gary and East Chicago – are urban districts with some of the highest poverty rates in the state. The fourth, Medora, is a tiny rural district in Southern Indiana, also with high poverty.

Under legislation approved a year ago, Indiana will move away from its current grading system but will continue giving A-to-F grades to schools and corporations. If we’re going to grade schools and school districts, let’s hope the new system measures something more than how rich or poor they are.

7 thoughts on “Indiana school corporation grades align with poverty too

  1. Excellent breakdown of the A-F categorization by SES for school corporations. The most compelling story not told here yet is what the 20 school corporations in the bottom quartile of income are doing so well to receive the A or B placement. Clearly they are doing outstanding work that most other school corporations should explore and replicate.

      • Being a principal in one of those “F” schools, I don’t believe any school is doing anything that is greater or less than any other school in this state. My K-5 school is at 87% F/R lunch with 43% of the students English Language Learners (which is not taken into account in figuring the data). The high school my students feed into received and “A” last year and is appealing for an “A” this year (one student off that actually did graduate). So, if we are to take this ridiculous grading system seriously, the middle and high school are able to make up for ALL the damage my teachers do to children between the ages of 5-11. I propose that instead of looking to see how schools work to line up and comply with an oppressive system that contributes to the prevalence of inequality and racism in our society, we, as educators, make a conscious effort to advocate for students by educating them to be creative, innovative, and advocate for themselves so they can find their own voices. These are traits not tested during one week in March and one week in May on the ISTEP. But, these are the same traits that might actually change the climate of public education.

      • Thanks, Suzy. Great comment. In support of your point, I’ll note that the other two elementary schools in your district also received Fs this year; yet, as you note, the high school is just shy of an A. And it’s interesting that ELL status rarely comes up in Indiana when we talk about school accountability.

  2. “Clearly they are doing outstanding work that most other school corporations should explore and replicate.”

    I think it’s called test prep.

  3. Pingback: Same old story: Test scores reflect demographics | School Matters

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