Indiana’s students, parents, and communities deserve to know how the schools in their neighborhoods are performing. We have long assigned A-F grades to students as a tool to understand how they are doing in class and develop a plan to help them do better if needed. The letter grade system for schools is built on the same concept.
Like grades for students, a strong accountability system for schools looks at many factors, not just test scores. Holding schools accountable for things such as student improvement from one year to the next, graduation rate, End of Course Assessment (ECA) pass rate, and student performance on tests will allow us to recognize high-performing schools while also clearly identifying which schools must improve and in what areas.
In 1999, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1750 (HEA 1750) which created Indiana’s accountability system (Public Law 221) and first required schools to receive an annual category placement. Federal school accountability, known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), was first established in 2001 with the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
HEA 1750 also allows public schools to fail for six consecutive years before the state must take action. This could allow a student to spend half of their K-12 school years in an F rated school. Schools need clear goals and more immediate consequences if those goals are not met. Six years of failure is simply too long and Indiana students deserve better.
The Indiana State Board of Education adopted new rules in 2011 to update the school performance categories from “exemplary progress, commendable progress, academic progress, academic watch, and academic probation” to easy to understand A-F grades.
Exemplary Progress: A
Commendable Progress: B
Academic Progress: C
Academic Watch: D
Academic Probation: F
These letter grades set goals for our schools based on student achievement and help school leaders assess what areas they need to address to ensure all students are successful. This system also allows families and communities to easily understand how well their school is preparing students for success.
In 2013, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1427 (HEA 1427) requiring the Department of Education to re-write A-F school accountability metrics “based on a measurement of individual student academic performance and growth to proficiency; and may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared to peers.” An accountability system review panel was formed and submitted recommendations to the Indiana State Board of Education in October of 2013, but a formal system has not been adopted as of February 2017.
Whatever Indiana’s A-F system looks like for school accountability, it should dramatically increase transparency and empower parents, educators and community stakeholders to work together to improve educational opportunities for all students.