McCormick: It’s time to change school grading system

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick is tapping into the alarm over results of Indiana’s new ILEARN standardized assessment to call for changes in how the state evaluates schools.

She said the test scores “once again show us the importance of developing a modernized, state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate and transparent.”

Flores, McCormick and Paino

Jennifer McCormick, center, with Department of Education assessment director Charity Flores and accountability director Maggie Paino.

State officials will release 2019 ILEARN results Wednesday at a meeting of the State Board of Education. It’s expected that the percentage of students who scored at the proficient level on the assessment is considerably lower than the number who passed the former ISTEP exam in 2018.

In a statement and at a Statehouse news conference, McCormick said she will call on the legislature to:

  • Hold schools harmless for test results for accountability purposes. In other words, schools would receive the higher of the grade they earned in 2018 or 2019.
  • Pause the intervention timeline that allows the state to close or take over schools that are rated F for multiple consecutive years.
  • Give emergency rule-making authority to the State Board of Education to enable it to reconfigure the accountability system to align with the new assessment.

McCormick also said it’s past time to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations, which can determine whether teachers get raises. Current law says teacher evaluations must be “significantly informed” by objective measures, like students’ test scores.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and leaders of both the House and Senate said they would support hold harmless legislation for schools after it became clear that test scores had declined. Rep. Bob Behning, who chairs the House Education committee, said lawmakers will take “a hard look” at the grading system.

McCormick said Department of Education officials expected a dip in scores with the adoption of a more rigorous assessment tied to expectations that students stay on track to being “college and career ready” when they graduate from high school.

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