The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

State News

November 1, 2013

School grade panel suggests new focus on 'growth'

INDIANAPOLIS — The bipartisan panel tasked with overhauling the school grading formula at the center of Indiana's grade-changing scandal submitted recommendations Thursday with a new focus on how individual students perform on state tests.

If adopted by the State Board of Education, the new formula would grade schools on a 100-point scale based in part on how their students perform on standardized tests year-to-year. It would also expand testing to first and second grades while potentially lowering the number of overall tests students take throughout their schooling.

Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, and Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Steven Yager, who was appointed Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, praised the work of the group they co-chaired through seven intensive meetings over the past six weeks.

"Because of this group's work, for the first time, we have moved a major step closer to a system that measures our schools based on individual student learning," Ritz said in a statement Thursday.

The new formula, according to the report, should calculate school grades differently for grades one to eight and grades nine to 12, balance raw performance on tests against student improvement, and judge students based on expectations on how much they should improve annually or "targeted growth."

The school grades play a crucial role in determining teacher pay, school funding and whether "failing" schools are turned over to private operators by the state. The existing grading formula became the center of controversy after The Associated Press reported former Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett had altered it last year to benefit a donor's Indianapolis charter school.

State lawmakers had already approved a rewrite of the formula earlier this year, amid widespread criticism about the Bennett scandal. Elected officials picked a 17-member group to create a transparent and easier to understand grading system.

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