School accountability grades will be the item to watch at this month’s State Board of Education meeting, following a delayed release in mid-October.
Board members decided to hold off on releasing A-F grades during their Oct. 15 meeting, after expressing concern over a handful of data calculation errors. The scores had previously been released to schools and the media on an embargo, which board members voted to sustain until they could get an outside review of the errors.
For added clarity, here’s how Chalkbeat Indiana‘s Scott Elliott described the errors in question:
The schools in question might have lost credit toward their grades because of a mistake by a company that administers International Baccalaureate tests that high school students take when they finish advanced classes, state officials said. Indiana Department of Education staff said they discovered late in the grading process that the company had accidentally failed to submit results for Indiana students at about five schools but told the board the error would be fixed.
The state has seen controversy around its A-F system in the recent past. A panel of experts is currently working to tweak the system for upcoming years — that group will also give an update on their progress at Wednesday’s meeting.
The agenda is pretty packed, so here’s a quick look at some of the other big items on the docket:
- Atypical schools. Keeping with our A-F theme, last month board members heard grade appeals from three schools with “atypical configurations” – schools that serve an unusual grouping of age levels, such as a combination of middle and high school grades. Only seven such schools exist around the state. Previously, the board had a uniform method to assess all of these schools similarly, but this summer they established a new rule allowing the board to assess each school’s grade on a case-by-case basis. Some people argue this allows special treatment for those schools – including Christel House Academy, the school once at the center of a grade change scandal. It’s unclear whether there will be more discussion this time around, but the absence of a memo on the posted agenda leads us to believe that the board will simply be giving the final okay on the grades they had decided to change in October.
- Transportation for Gary students. As we’ve reported, the Gary Community School Corporation owes close to $3 million to its transportation company, who gave the district until Nov. 10 to pay up or else lose bus services. The state board will get an update just five days ahead of that deadline. More than 4,000 district students depend on buses to get to and from school every day.
- No Child Left Behind waiver. Like many of who waited this summer for the verdict on the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver, the board is curious to know how the state is holding up on its end of its agreement with the feds to address specific concerns. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz had said her department would work to improve the state’s teacher and principal evaluation system, and according to the prepared materials they say they’re doing just that. Additionally, IDOE staff continue to tout their online teacher communities, which they say have grown to include more than 5,000 educators.
- Ebola. Yes, even the IDOE is talking about this virus. The Department says it is working with the Indiana State Department of Health to develop guidance documents for schools, which will also become available electronically. Although local experts have said fears of the Ebola outbreak reaching the Hoosier state are overblown, state health officials announced just last week they were monitoring six individuals who could be at risk of contracting the virus.
- Roles and Responsibilities of the State Board of Education/Department of Education. We’re not sure exactly what this means, but based on previous discussions of board procedure – as well as a handful of tense disputes – there is no way of knowing where this agenda item could lead.
The board will convene Wednesday morning at the Indiana Statehouse.