Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How Indiana’s A-F School Rating System Could Change

We mentioned last week what former state superintendent Tony Bennett had to say about Indiana’s A-F school accountability system, now that he’s been cleared of charges of unfairly changing the system back when he was schools chief.

A-F accountability panel co-chairman Steve Yager listens as Claire Fiddian-Green and Steve Baker discuss their ideas about measuring student growth.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A-F accountability panel co-chairman Steve Yager listens as Claire Fiddian-Green and Steve Baker discuss their ideas about measuring student growth.

Bennett called the system “confusing,” and he’s not the only one. Current policymakers think something should be done to correct that.

So, like many other things in Indiana’s education system these days, A-F policies are getting a makeover. A panel of policymakers from the state’s Department of Education and the governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation is in talks to tweak those policies, to make them clearer for schools and families.

The group released a timeline in June about where the state plans to move with the new system. Emphasizing student growth is a priority, according to Claire Fiddian-Green, special assistant for education innovation to Governor Mike Pence.

“Let’s measure how close a student is to being on target, or whether they’re above target, and if they’re below target, just how below target are they,” Fiddian-Green says.

Fiddian-Green says any changes to the A-F model that include growth will also be reflected in the state’s teacher evaluation system. State law requires schools to use some kind of student growth data – usually state assessment scores – be included in annual teacher rankings. These evaluations must be linked to pay.

And all of this hinges on a new statewide assessmentone that is still in the stage of development. Some experts predict that the first year of a brand-new test may mean much lower scores. New York and Kentucky have already seen scores drop after introducing a new, more rigorous test.

Fiddian-Green says state officials are well aware of this challenge, and the need to address it once new state standards are implemented.

“There’s a lot of thought and great care being given to make sure that all of the changes are as smooth as possible, and that schools and families students are getting the support that they need to help adjust to all of the changes with the standards and assessments moving forward,” Fiddian-Green says.

The revised system will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year. The state board plans to conduct a trial run for the new system based on schools’ 2013-14 performance in order to perfect it.

“Any time you make changes to any large system that impacts so many different entities, you have to test the data using actual Indiana results,” Fiddian-Green says. “[It] allows time for any unforeseen consequences to be identified and some fixes made before it goes into effect.”

The effort to recast the A-F system stems from a state law signed in 2013 – the very same law that prodded state officials to reexamine Indiana’s involvement in the Common Core State Standards.

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