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What’s behind the state’s school grades?

The Indiana Department of Education released its letter grades for Indiana schools Wednesday. But what do those grades mean?
Marlys Weaver-Stoesz
Posted on Nov. 4, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

When Amy Howard saw the list of grades the state assigned to local schools, there were some she expected and some that she didn’t.

“I was a little shocked that my daughter’s school, Orchard View (in Middlebury), received a B instead of an A,” she wrote to a reporter. “Orchard View is very active in my daughter’s life and she has learned so much in her kindergarten classroom.”

She’s glad the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) gives grades to schools, though, to help parents make choices about where to send kids to school, she said.

“I firmly believe it is how they are taught as to how they will do on tests and if they graduate,” she said.

The IDOE released its grades for Indiana schools Wednesday, giving an A to 40 percent of Indiana’s schools, a B to 20 percent, a C to 20 percent, a D to 12 percent and an F to 7 percent of schools.

Some readers commented on The Elkhart Truth’s online forums Wednesday, applauding schools who earned As and criticizing or explaining what’s happening in the schools that earned lower grades.

Elkhart Superintendent Robert Haworth said after the grades were released Wednesday, that, just like on a student’s report card, sometimes the lower grades actually represent more growth than some of the higher grades.

“Even though our accountability grades aren’t all what we’d like, in the five months I’ve been here, I have yet to come across someone who wasn’t giving an A effort,” he said.

For Wa-Nee schools, the results are causing a celebration. Wa-Nee Superintendent Joe Sabo sent an email to all staff Wednesday after the release of the grades, alerting them of the A for every Wa-Nee school. The school corporation is planning a celebration for its teachers and staff next week.

HOW THE GRADES ARE DETERMINED

Through the new grading model, the number of students who pass state standardized tests is taken into account as well as the amount of growth each student makes from year to year on those tests.

According to the IDOE, for elementary and middle schools, each school receives a preliminary score based on the percentage of students that passed state standardized tests, including Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+); Indiana Modified Achievement Standards Test (IMAST), a test for some students with disabilities; and the Indiana Standards Tool for Alternate Reporting (ISTAR), another test for some students with disabilities.

At the same time, each student is put into a group with students from across the state who earned the same score on last year’s test. Each student’s score on this year’s test is then compared to the rest of that group and determined by the IDOE to be making low or high growth compared to that student’s cohorts.

The preliminary grade a school earned for the number of students passing those tests can then be raised or lowered according to how many students showed high or low growth. In a hypothetical school where all students passed a state standardized test, but did not show high improvement compared to other students, that school’s grade would be lowered.

A school’s score can also go down if less than 95 percent of the school’s lowest performing students or less than 95 percent of all other students, plus IMAST and ISTAR students, don’t participate on required state assessments.

“Growth is a key element of the model and schools are eligible to receive a penalty if too many students show low growth,” said Will Krebs of the office of accountability with the IDOE.

At the high school level, according to the IDOE, the same process takes place for comparing students on end-of-course assessments. The IDOE then raises a school’s score depending on the percentage of students who earn an honors diploma or if a certain percentage of students that did not graduate in four years are able to do so in five years. The IDOE lowers scores if 32.8 percent or more of students earned a general or waiver diploma. High schools’ scores are also impacted by the percentage of graduates who receive high scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, three college credits during high school or an IDOE-approved industry certification.

National Public Radio’s State Impact Indiana produced a video explaining how the system works. That’s available at http://stateimpact.npr.org/indiana/topic/a-f-school-ratings.

GRADES’ CONSEQUENCES

The new grading system came about partially to fulfill qualifications to receive a waiver from No Child Left Behind and its Adequate Yearly Progress standards, which Indiana received in February. To receive the waiver, states had to develop an alternative accountability system. The A to F system and its metrics also satisfy the state’s accountability law, Public Law 221.

A goal of the A to F Accountability System is “heightened community awareness and increased dialogue and action among education stakeholders,” according to information from the IDOE.

But the state is also required to intervene in schools that have received an F six consecutive years.

THE GRADES

The public can access all the grades at www.doe.in.gov/improvement/accountability/f-accountability by selecting “2012 School Grade Results,” The spreadsheet shows grades for 2010 through 2012, though this is the first year that the new methodology was used to arrive at the letter grades. Previous years’ grades used a different formula, so that those do not measure the exact same aspects of a school as the 2012 letter grades.

Here are what local schools earned, according to the IDOE, organized by school district.

BAUGO

B: Jimtown High School, Jimtown Junior High

D: Jimtown Elementary, Jimtown Intermediate

CONCORD

A: Concord Junior High, Concord High School, Concord East Side Elementary

B: Concord Intermediate, Concord Ox-Bow Elementary, Concord South Side Elementary

C: Concord West Side Elementary

ELKHART

A: Cleveland Elementary, Eastwood Elementary, North Side Middle School, West Side Middle School, Pinewood Elementary, Monger Elementary, Woodland Elementary

B: Elkhart Central High School

C: Elkhart Memorial High School, Osolo Elementary, Feeser Elementary, Bristol Elementary, Beardsley Elementary, Daly Elementary, Riverview Elementary

D: Hawthorne Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary

F: Pierre Moran Middle School, Beck Elementary

FAIRFIELD

A: Benton Elementary, Millersburg Elementary, New Paris Elementary

B: Fairfield Jr./Sr. High School

GOSHEN

B: Parkside Elementary

C: Model Elementary, Chandler Elementary, Goshen High School

D: Chamberlain Elementary, Prairie View Elementary, Waterford Elementary, West Goshen Elementary

F: Goshen Middle School

MIDDLEBURY

A: Northridge Middle School, York Elementary, Northridge High School

B: Jefferson Elementary, Middlebury Elementary, Orchard View Elementary

D: Heritage Intermediate School

WA-NEE

A: NorthWood Middle School, Wakarusa Elementary, NorthWood High School, Nappanee Elementary, Woodview Elementary

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

A: St. Thomas the Apostle School

B: Bethany Christian School, Elkhart Christian Academy, St. John the Evangelist School

F: St. Vincent de Paul School

PENN-HARRIS-MADISON

A: Walt Disney Elementary, Prairie Vista Elementary, Mary Frank Harris Elementary, Schmucker Middle School, Virgil I Grissom Middle School, Madison Elementary, Penn High School



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