What if we graded every Indiana school by growth, not by performance? And why shouldn’t we? Under state law, growth-only grades are considered appropriate for schools in their first three years of operation. And for Indianapolis Public Schools “innovation network schools” that reopened under new leadership. Why shouldn’t other schools get the same treatment?
In fact I’ve argued previously that growth should be the sole metric for using test scores to evaluate schools. Using performance – the percentage of students who pass state tests – produces entirely predictable results: Low-poverty schools are “good,” high-poverty schools are “bad.”
If we’re going to grade schools, it makes more sense to grade them on whether students improve over a year’s time, not on the education level of the students’ parents or real estate values in their neighborhoods.
Here’s a list of K-8 public and charter schools, sorted by their growth scores, highest to lowest. You can search the list by district or school name and see where your local schools fall.
If we applied the usual grading rubric – 90-100 is an A, 80-90 is a B, etc. – nearly three-fourths of the schools would get A’s. But since this is just an exercise, we can set the cut-offs anywhere we choose. I set it to achieve the same curve that resulted from applying Indiana’s actual grading formula: 28 percent of K-8 schools get As, 30 percent get B’s, 24 percent get C’s, 10 percent get D’s and 6 percent get F’s. (I don’t mess with high schools; their grading formula is more complex).
Scan the list and you’ll see there’s no clear pattern to which schools are successful. There are traditional public, charter, high-poverty, low-poverty, urban, suburban and rural schools in every category.
The highest-scoring schools are John Wood Elementary in Merrillville, School No. 93 in IPS, Slate Run and Fairmont elementary schools in New Albany, and Glen Acres Elementary in Lafayette. One charter school, Paramount School of Excellence in Indy, cracks the top 10. Quite a few of the A schools in the growth-only approach got A’s anyway; but a lot of them got B’s, several got C’s and one even got a D.
Ultimately, we should end the silly and destructive practice of labeling schools with letter grades. But if we’re going to grade schools, using growth is fairer and more interesting than the state’s current formula, which weights growth and performance equally. If it’s right for some schools, why not all?