Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why The Release Of Indiana Schools' A-F Grades Has Been So Delayed

Photo Illustration by Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Last year's school letter grades were released in August.

Last year, state education officials had published their letter grade ratings for every Indiana school by late August.

But as we creep into October — and as state officials work to implement an immensely-complicated new model for rating Indiana schools — this year’s release of state letter grades has been pushed back until October 31.

Indiana Department of Education spokesperson Stephanie Sample says state officials extended the period in which local district administrators can review their district’s preliminary results and, if they wish, appeal their letter grade.

“They want more time to examine their results and data, which is understandable,” Sample told StateImpact in an email.*

But the delays have provided a nit to pick for critics of state Superintendent Tony Bennett. Vic Smith, a retired educator and Indiana Coalition for Public Education board member, called the rollout of the new letter grades a “fiasco.”

In an email to supporters reposted at The Huntington Teacher, Smith chronicles what he lays out as a series of delays that speaks to — as he characterizes it — a bungled implementation of the state’s new A-F letter grades.

“While I did not expect the series of problems chronicled above, I did believe that the development of the system itself going back to 2010 was seriously flawed,” he wrote.

Jonathan Plucker, who directs IU’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, told StateImpact Friday he doesn’t see it that way:

I really think that the Department of Education wants to make sure that they are perfect, that there’s no mistakes. I really think [it’s] an appropriate level of caution. But people are getting really, really antsy. They need to come out soon, and it’s my understanding that they are going to.

From what I’ve heard through the grapevine, they’re checking, they’re rechecking, they’re making sure every bit of data — a ton of data has to go into this. They want to make sure everything is technically correct so we get kind of honest grades this first time around.

I think that’s really important because the intent as described to me at the very beginning of this process is this isn’t one of those systems we’re going to design and sit back for 5 to 10 years. They really want to tinker with it, make sure that it’s fair and accurate, that schools can move up through really good efforts. And so really they’re trying to be as careful as possible so we can improve this thing every single year. So I really think it’s an excess of caution at this point.

Plucker says he has seen the preliminary letter grades. He says the ratings will paint a positive picture of Indiana school performance.

Bennett has also said the grades will show which schools are promoting high student growth.

“We’re going to see both schools that have [a higher] percentage of disadvantaged students do better,” Bennett told StateImpact Thursday. “And we’re going to see a group of schools who believe they have always been successful by riding at or above that 90 percent who may not do as well as they thought.”

The new grading model has been the subject of much disagreement too — we cover the debate over whether the “Indiana growth model” works here and here.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post inaccurately inferred IDOE spokesperson Stephanie Sample believed the model is “complex.” She followed up with StateImpact by e-mail to say that isn’t quite the case:

The model is more comprehensive in that it considers more than just pass/fail like the old system. However, the data is clear and transparent. There are many pieces of local data, and schools are taking a harder closer look at those pieces than ever before. (We’re glad they’re paying closer attention.) If you have all the pieces that go into the calculation, the process is not complicated.


  • Luzia

    Too much data, too many “officials,” too much “job/paycheck justification,” for what can only be characterized as irrelevant busy bodyness. Meanwhile…. what about the kids. They don’t need grades, they need caring teachers educating them. Priorities…. why do grades, “officials,” and the “system of education” always upstage the kids? It’s sad really – and so revealing… even their names “coincidentally” say a lot….

  • MBL

    I’m glad they’re taking their time. Our school was dropped a full letter grade because of ONE STUDENT who hadn’t been tested. The reason we hadn’t tested him was because both he and his brother disappeared completely in March. We spent months chasing that family and filing with every truancy agency imaginable about them and they never returned to school; the kids weren’t removed from our rosters until August. I would have been furious had that data been published publicly. Then again, they haven’t approved our appeal yet, so they still have time to be horrible and unreasonable.

  • JupiterMom

    How is it that a school will improve with this model? Testing a different set of students each year does not inform you anything about how a school has improved. We’ve had this in FL for 10 + years now and have not seen improvement – although the state likes to move the goal post and call it a win. Parents and teachers know that all it has created is a test prep format for school instead of learning. It’s a sham. And while we play this ridiculous game of grading schools, real reform is delayed. Shameful.

  • IDOE gets an F

    We have a Middle School that received a B grade instead of an A. The fiasco formula penalized our school when students in the district moved to a different school during the year and did not take the state standardized tests. As a result, the B ensued. Thankfully the Principal appealed the grade. Just another way to make it easier to turn schools over to charters so out of state companies can get a piece of the “for profit” educational reform pie that TB is cooking.

  • data lady

    Ms Sample had it right the first time, the new model is complex….VERY complex. I do understand how it works, just like I understood both of the previous models; however, I am having a MUCH more difficult time helping others understand this model than I did the previous. Not to mention, this model is seriously flawed. The calculations on growth can be based on a small number of students, I have seen it applied to fewer than 10. This is an issue and calls into question the validity and reliability of the scores.

    • kystokes

      Point of order: The point of the clarification is that Sample *did not* say it was complex. She said it was understandable the districts needed more time, not that the formula was complex. That’s what the clarification reflects.

      • data lady

        Thank you for the clarification, however, that does not change the fact that it is very complex has major validity and reliability issues.

        • kystokes

          Yeah, sorry I wasn’t trying to stomp on your opinion. I just want to clarify what Sample did/didn’t say.

  • Indiana Parent

    If Mike Pence is elected governor and Tony Bennett is re-elected, they will outsource the RISE evaluations. The evaluations will not be done by school principals. The people hired to evaluate Indiana teachers may possibly be from out of state. Most likely they will not be from the local school corporation.

    The evaluators will not know the faculty member being evaluated or anything about the teacher. Mike Pence has stated that having the local principal do the evaluation of his teachers is not “getting a true read”.

  • Lafayette Teacher

    Not to be too cynical, but might it be that the grades were “delayed” until just before election day in order to make it appear that Dr. Bennett and crew were actually doing something relevant to education? One needs to ask if the data used to produce the grades are valid measurements that actually correlate to a quality or non-quality educational experience (or ‘A’ to ‘F’). Data can be made to show anything you wish it to show depending upon how it is analyzed. As my father used to say, “Figures don’t lie … But liars can figure.” The same can be said about grades…

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