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IN lawmakers want new school grading system

Indiana lawmakers want to throw out the state’s current A to F school accountability system and direct the State Board of Education to develop a new one. 

Members of both parties are uniting behind a single message – the current school accountability system doesn’t make sense.  But some are split on what the new system should look like. 

Senator Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) says, while the current system is impossible to understand and explain, he wants to retain the A to F framework.

“The A to F grading metric provides a simple opportunity to grade schools so we know which schools are good, which need to improve.”

Still, Banks admits the current system metrics are too complicated.

“When PhD’s in education can’t stand before in a committee and explain what they mean, there’s clearly something wrong.  When I can’t go before a forum in my district and explain why one school is graded a D and another school is graded an A, clearly we need to reform.”

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz proposes labeling schools as Reward, Focus or Priority schools based on two measures: growth and achievement.  If schools have both high achievement and positive growth, they’re a reward school.  If they have low achievement and negative growth, they’re a priority school.  If there’s a mix, they earn a focus school designation.

She says trying to fit two metrics, achievement and growth, into one grade doesn’t work.

“When you combine them together and try to have one solid score for that, then that’s where we are now, where we cannot tell you what the grade represents.  Does it represent mostly growth?  Does it represent mostly achievement?  And how can it represent both fairly?”

Ritz says her proposed system would allow schools to focus on all students rather than just “bubble students” that can boost a certain metric.

“Each student would carry equal weight and focus.  School improvement would be focused on each and every child, creating a very rigorous system that is accurate and transparent to strengthen school accountability.”

During Wednesday's Senate Education Committee, Banks praised Ritz for her work to come up with a new plan.  Ritz says she and the state Board will take input from a wide variety of sources when developing a new accountability system. 

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.