Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

DOE Memo: Indiana Schools Will Have A-F Grades By November 22


Screenshot / IDOE

A school's state A-F report card from 2012.

Indiana schools will have their state-issued A-F performance ratings by Nov. 22, according to a proposed timeline the state’s Department of Education sent to district superintendents this week.

Nov. 22 is also the suggested date of an as-yet-unscheduled meeting of the State Board of Education, during which the panel could approve “final letter grades for all Indiana schools.”

School officials could then submit any appeals of their letter grades over the next week. According to the memo, the State Board would approve any changes to the grades in the new year.

State education officials’ pace in calculating and releasing the grades has become central to a dispute between Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and State Board members.

A controversy over former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s handling of the 2012 A-F grades and widespread disruptions to last spring’s online ISTEP+ exams were certain to delay this year’s results.

But State Board members accuse the Ritz administration of moving too slowly, saying IDOE officials already have enough test score data to send schools preliminary letter grades. Ritz says her staff has been waiting for data from 55,000 requested ISTEP+ re-scores before calculating the grades, even on a preliminary basis.

The memo says IDOE officials will receive that data by Nov. 5, share their calculations with the Legislative Services Agency on Nov. 8 and release “preliminary grade calculations” to schools on Nov. 12.

Former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s administration first calculated grades under the current model in 2012. That year, Bennett officials released final results on Oct. 29.

According to a report from two independent policy analysts, Bennett’s staff opened an appeals window on Sept. 19 and accepted appeal filings up until five days before releasing the results to the public.


  • Dr. Brad E. Oliver

    There has been no communication with SBOE members about a November 22nd State School Board Meeting. As of today, no preliminary A-F grade data has been shared with school corporations, even though raw data has been validated and available for preliminary A-F grade calculations since the end of July.

    Presuming A-F grade data would be sent out to schools by mid-November, an appeals period would follow prior to the SBOE approving final letter grades for public release. Under no circumstances should preliminary A-F Grade data be presented to the Board in a public meeting, as preliminary grades would become a matter of public record. The intent of releasing preliminary A-F grade data to school districts is to allow school leaders the opportunity to study the data for the purposes of appeal, to begin preliminary work related to having compliant compensation models in place for the current school year, and begin the critical work of revising school improvement efforts PRIOR to grades being approved by the SBOE for public release.

    Last year, prelminary, embargoed data was released to school districts by September 19th and the SBOE finalized A-F grades for public distribution by the end of October. It is unfortunate that there continue to be delays in getting preliminary A-F grades to school leaders who badly need this information. While it is true a small percentage of tests are being rescored, preliminary grades are representative of the final scores for over 90% of the schools; and more than likely, rescored results would only result in the final A-F grade going up.

    It is critical that the general public understand the process of A-F grade calculations involves the issuance of preliminary A-F grades released to schools (not the public), followed by a reasonable period of time to allow for appeals; and then finally, SBOE action to approve final grades prior to release of such grades to the general public.

    - Dr. Brad E. Oliver, SBOE Member, 6th Congressional District

    • Karynb9

      Dr. Oliver, what harm is being done to schools, teachers, and the public at large by waiting until ISTEP results are finalized (which will not happen until these re-scores are complete) to release A-F grades, even in their preliminary form? I have heard that school districts are waiting on A-F grades to be able to finalize teacher evaluations from 2012-2013 which is also necessary to issue merit-based bonuses many teachers deserve. However, there is NO school district in the state that would “finalize” evaluations and cut bonus checks to teachers based on “preliminary” results that are issued before ISTEP scores have been finalized. The school districts will wait for the final, official A-F grades.

      Dr. Oliver, how many weeks passed between ISTEP results being FINALIZED in 2011-2012 and preliminary A-F grades being released to schools? Considering ISTEP results weren’t available to schools until September 9th (which is approximately four months after they were available in 2012), the fact that the DOE is going to release the preliminary 2013 grades to schools only seven weeks later than it did in 2012 doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me.

      Board members have mentioned in various interviews that they wrote the LSA to ask for help because school districts are frustrated that they don’t have this information yet. I find it very surprising, based on the logic described in my above paragraphs, that principals and administrators around the state don’t understand why grades are delayed this year and why having preliminary grades before ISTEP results are finalized would be of any benefit to them anyway. I guess I’m questioning how many public school superintendents you and your fellow board members have actually heard from who do not believe there is a logical reason for the delay and have requested that you as board member intervene in this process? I would actually be interested in a number to support those claims being made. If numerous school districts HAVE been contacting SBOE members about this, I will stand corrected. However, I’m concerned that this whole “we’re doing it because the schools are clamoring for this information immediately” narrative is simply a ruse to get away with more political posturing against Ritz. I can’t help but wonder that if Ritz and the DOE had released preliminary grades to schools before ISTEP results were finalized and all appeals were exhausted, would the SBOE have publicly declared her as incompetent for releasing A-F grades with incomplete data that was subject to change pending appeals (“How dare she release this information when 55,000 re-scores are still out there?!?!?”)?

      I think a Bennett-operated DOE would have done the exact same thing (wait until re-scores were complete and ISTEP scores were finalized) before issuing preliminary grades to schools…and I’m guessing this SBOE would have been absolutely fine with that decision…but I guess we’ll never know? I am eagerly waiting information on how many schools have come forward to you with complaints about the delays. Thank you for participating in a forum such as this where questions like mine can be asked and hopefully answered.

    • Karynb9

      Also, while I can appreciate your concern over not wanting “preliminary” scores to become a matter of public record by approving them at an SBOE meeting, the SBOE initially said that they were hoping to finalize grades at their November 6th meeting (source: IndyStar article from 10/19). You knew when you raised this issue with legislative leaders less than two weeks ago that ISTEP re-score results would not be released to the DOE from CTB until November 5th, and I have to assume you are all realistic enough to realize that a 24-hour turn-around in getting those adjusted ISTEP scores (no matter how slight the adjustment) turned into grades for affected schools in time for them to be presented to board members is not practical. So, some of the grades that you insisted be ready to be presented for your approval on November 6th (and therefore becoming a part of the public record) would indeed be preliminary because they would be based on ISTEP data that was still subject to change based on results of re-score requests. That seemed to be something you had no problem with a few weeks ago? Why did your opinion change?

    • indyscott

      Dr. Oliver,

      Thank you for your input on this topic. The SBOE has taken a lot of criticism since Ms. Ritz has taken office but I respect the fact that you and other members of the board are willing to ask questions and seek answers while trying to make the best decisions in fulfilling your duties as a board member.

    • Tamara5

      One question I have is why would we release any “preliminary” grades to be made public record when there were rescores to be done? I have asked this before and not received a reply. If a school gets its preliminary score and it is a “C” for example and after rescores its grade goes up, what grade is being released to the media? The C. There will not be anything in the media about the grade going up. That school will carry the stigma of the lower grade. How is that what is best for the students?

      And really, do you think there is any money out there for merit pay? Most teachers I know even in wealthy districts are not going to see any merit pay. And if they do it will be a couple of hundred spread out over the year. Not even enough to “celebrate” by going out to eat.

      I hope you will require schools to be public with their merit pay.

  • Dr. Brad E. Oliver

    Karyn, the views I am about to express are my own:

    There are many misconceptions about the Board’s actions regarding A-F letter grades.The Board has been calling for the release of prelminary A-F grades since the August Board meeting so that we might finalize A-F grades for public release by no later than November. That window is now gone; and unfortunately, teachers will continue to wait on pay increases for this year until such time as preliminary A-F grades and teacher effectivenss ratings are released to schools, appeals are processed, and SBOE can issue accurate final A-F grades at a future date (still unknown). I suspect it is unlikely final grades will be issued to the public before 2014 (as compared to the October 30th final release date from last year).

    The SBOE letter you reference was sent to legislative leaders recommending a Memorandum of Understanding be entered into between the Department of Education and Legislative Services Agency, consistent with the recommendations of the Sheldrake & Grew Report discussed in public by the Board during our October 2nd SBOE meeting that Supt. Ritz chaired. It should be noted that Supt. Ritz recused herself at that meeting from any vote on A-F matters, deferring to the remaining Board members to act alone on A-F issues being presented for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Moreover, the recommendation included in the SBOE’s letter to legislative leadership requested LSA work with IDOE — there was no secret meeting and there was no action taken outside of the October 2nd public meeting of the Board. If Superintendent Ritz viewed our letter as a possible violation of Open Door, the appropriate recourse would have been to file a complaint with the Public Access Counselor, not file a lawsuit against the State Board of Education. This lawsuit has only served to create even more confusion in an attempt to weaken the legitimate statutory authority of the Board to establish educational policy. We must get politics out of education.

    School leaders all over the state are waiting patiently on prelminary A-F grades and I have been in contact with several of them directly. Many have already started to manually calculate their own preliminary A-F grades because they feel they can no longer wait on this information from the IDOE; moreover, many school leaders have local deadlines in their individual districts being impacted by the state’s delay in releasing prelminary A-F grades.

    The State Board of Education consists of ten, Governor-appointed Board members and the State Superintendent, who share equally in several statutory obligations related to education. I hope my follow comments are helpful to your understanding and the understanding of others who may read this post.

    Thank you for your comments.
    Dr. Brad E. Oliver

    • Karynb9

      Thank you for your response. My thoughts on the actual sending of the letter by the SBOE and whether or not there was a meeting and whether or not a lawsuit should have been filed are actually irrelevant to our discussion about whether or not the SBOE is being reasonable with their expectations of the DOE timeline when it comes to releasing final A-F grades.

      I still maintain that there are no official actions that can be taken by schools related to teacher evaluations or pay increases until A-F grades are FINALIZED, which was never something that could happen until after ISTEP scores were finalized, which is delayed because of the delay in ISTEP scores, which is delayed due to the technical issues in the administration of ISTEP. Preliminary grades help school districts in no way whatsoever. They could have had preliminary grades to them in August and still not been able to resolve issues related to teacher evaluations and pay increases at this point in the year since ISTEP scores are not yet finalized and I hope we can both agree that A-F grades should not be finalized until all ISTEP re-scores have been processed and ISTEP is finalized. Final grades were released by Dr. Bennett’s DOE for 2011-2012 at the end of October 2013 — five months after the inital release of ISTEP results to schools and parents. Final grades for 2012-2013 appear to be set to be released in early January 2014 — just FOUR months after the initial release of ISTEP results to schools and parents. I’m still not buying the fact that this is an unreasonable timeline.

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