Today marks the half-way point for a series of public hearings on the Indiana State Board of Education’s plan to change the way A-to-F grades are calculated for schools and school corporations. These changes aren’t getting much attention, but they could matter a lot for schools.
To the board’s credit, it’s conducting hearings in all corners of the state. Today’s is at 4 p.m. at the University of Evansville. Additional hearings will be March 1 in Madison and March 9 in Indianapolis. The board then will discuss the plan in work sessions March 21 and April 3 and vote on it April 4.
The Indiana Department of Education spent seven months and conducted meetings with teachers, school administrators and members of the public to revise the A-to-F system as part of its plan for implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. But the board came up with a different approach. It gave preliminary approval its new school accountability rule in January.
The thrust of the approach is to put more weight on test scores and graduation rates and less on student growth or improvement. For example, the board would eliminate growth as a factor in grading high schools. And it would cap the points that K-8 schools could get for student growth; by my calculations, that could reduce the number of such schools earning A’s by about half.
According to news coverage, the first two public hearings – in Fort Wayne and South Bend – elicited mostly negative responses. But this is a technical issue that can easily slip through the cracks, especially when most education advocates are focused on the state legislative session.
Comments on the A-to-F rule can also be submitted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be considered, comments should address specifics. It’s tempting to comment that slapping a letter grade on something as complex as a school is nonsensical, but that won’t have any impact.