Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Here’s How The A-F Panel Recommended The State Assign Schools Letter Grades

A-F Panel members Casandra McLeod, left, and Derek Redelman review the final report. Redelman was the only person on the 17-member panel to vote against the final recommendation, citing concerns about how growth would be calculated.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A-F Panel members Casandra McLeod, left, and Derek Redelman review the final report. Redelman was the only person on the 17-member panel to vote against the final recommendation, citing concerns about how growth would be calculated.

The State Board of Education will meet at least twice in November to consider recommended changes to the current A-F accountability system.

The governor, the state superintendent and legislative leaders asked a 17-member panel for input on how to rewrite the metrics used to assign letter grades to schools after the General Assembly sent the two-year-old system back to the State Board for an overhaul.

The biggest change: Indiana students will no longer be compared to their peers’ across the state. Under the new model, the state must measure how much individual students are growing.

“Parents are going to get quite a bit of information about the growth of their students,” says state superintendent Glenda Ritz, who co-chaired the panel. “Not only passing categories for achievement, but also knowing they’re on a good trajectory so to speak to where they need to be.”

The A-F panel’s recommendation is far from final. In fact, most of what’s going to the State Board for review is a conceptual framework. There’s no statistical modeling yet to show how the new system would impact schools’ grades.

And that’s a problem, says Indiana Chamber of Commerce Vice President Derek Redelman.

“It will be absolutely impossible for the State Board to put into place a rule — as they are currently mandated to do by Nov. 15 — without having that data in hand,” says Redelman, the lone member of the panel to vote against adoption of the final report. “They’ve never tried to do such a thing in the past, and I really doubt this board will try to do it this time.”

Redelman says he thinks the panel made progress with discussions about how to build a better accountability model. But he thinks there’s still too much focus in the new system on whether students can pass a test and too little focus on how well schools are growing them.

If you’re curious about what’s in the final report, read on.


  • karynb9

    I absolutely agree with Redelman (and for those of you keeping track at home, that is quite possibly the first time in my life I’ve ever said that). With equivalent amounts of “effective instruction” (not sure how that would be measured in the first place), is it equally likely that a DNP Level 2 student and a Pass+ Level 2 can go up a level? Is it “easier” and does it require less effort/resources to move kids from Pass 1 to Pass 2 than to move them from DNP 2 to DNP 3? If there is any difference at all, this model isn’t valid. How will the cut scores for these various levels be determined? Just like you can’t take the total points possible and divide by three to get your DNP, Pass, and Pass+ cut-off scores, you can’t take the points possible within the current levels and divide by two or three to determine the cut scores for the sub-levels, nor can you take the number of students who were DNP/Pass/Pass+ and divide by two or three to determine the appropriate cut score. If these grades were merely going to be used to help make pretty little “We’re an A School!” banners to hang in front of schools, I might excuse a little oversight in the statistical analysis category, but these grades have very real consequences for teachers and other school personnel in terms of compensation and job security. Please don’t gamble my family’s financial future on a model that has yet to be proven to be statistically valid.

    • indyscott

      karynb9, It seems that most of the outrage from the A-F grade situation and even ISTEP results relate back to teacher evaluations and compensation. I don’t know that I agree with all of the process since the student seems to have become a number/statistic but what do you see that needs to happen to hold teachers accountable.

      • karynb9

        Thanks for your question. Well, first of all, I think the narrative that’s out there that we NEED far-reaching plans from the state level to hold teachers accountable because schools all over this country are over-run with terrible teachers is a crisis manufactured by those who oppose unions and by those who have a financial stake in solutions for this “crisis” — testing companies and for-profit charter school operators, for example. Teachers in buildings with strong administrators who were themselves strong teachers and can serve as instructional leaders have always been “held accountable.” They were held accountable by administrators knowing what was going on in classrooms and asking questions. They were held accountable by administrators looking at classroom data and the data available from statewide assessments and then being able to logically determine the effectiveness of a teacher considering the specifics of his/her classroom. They were held accountable by fellow teachers — “This is what I’M doing and these are the results that I’M getting, and I think we should all try it.” Why do we think that someone sitting in an office in Indianapolis who has never even met 98% of the teachers he or she is charged with “holding accountable” is going to be able to do a better job than effective administrators who work with those teachers every day?!? Administrators who historically blamed “the union” for being unable to fire ineffective teachers were simply too lazy to go through the very clear steps they were ALWAYS allowed to take to get a teacher on an improvement plan and terminate his/her contract (regardless of years of experience or union membership). If you have a building with a weak teacher, then you have a building with a weak leader. Most teachers that I know of hold themselves more personally accountable for their students’ success than any administrator or school district ever has — it’s insulting to those who have been in the profession for several years that we are going to suddenly “care more” about our students’ success now that increased teacher accountability systems are in place. Teachers are by-and-large in this profession because we want to help students succeed — and we don’t need the threat of whips or the enticement of carrots to get us to work hard for that purpose.

        The idea of “holding teachers accountable” definitely begs the question “holding teachers accountable…for what?!?” To hold teachers or schools accountable for ALL of a child’s academic success or failure is preposterous and ignores study after study after study after study that ties academic success to factors other than teachers or schools. Do teachers and schools have zero impact on academic success or accountability? Of course not. However, having a system that grades every school in the state (A-F) and even nearly every teacher in a single school corporation (RISE or other evaluations) on the exact same scale ignores every piece of research on the topic of student achievement. If you believe that there may be factors OTHER than the effectiveness of teachers or schools that play a role in the academic success of a child — even if those other factors are secondary to the role of teachers — then you need to oppose one-size-fits-all models like ANY type of A-F grading scale for our state’s schools. Otherwise, you HAVE to believe that our state’s best teachers ALL just so happen to teach in Carmel, Zionsville, Fishers, and West Lafayette and at schools like Park Tudor and Heritage Christian and that’s the reason why those students consistently have high test scores. That’s not an idea that I can support.

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