Nearly all schools in Indiana—a full 94 percent—received the exact same grade on the state’s accountability report card for the last school year as they did the year before.
But that doesn’t mean every school qualified for that grade.
When the Indiana State Board of Education released grades for the 2014-15 school year on Tuesday morning, it seemed clear that many schools benefited from a “hold harmless” bill that Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Thursday. That law, prompted by a dramatic drop in 2015 ISTEP test scores due in part to tougher standards, barred the board from giving schools grades for 2015 that were lower than the ones they received the year before.
With that law in place, the grades released by the board Tuesday reflected new grades for just 5.9 percent of Indiana schools. Just 123 of more than 2,000 schools in the state saw their marks rise. The rest of the state’s schools either happened to earn the same grades as before or were “held harmless” at their 2014 grade levels.
“After more than 18 months spent advocating to hold our schools and teachers harmless for the transition to more rigorous college and career ready standards and the results of a more rigorous ISTEP assessment, I am pleased to release 2015 school accountability grades that do not penalize schools and communities for this transition,” said state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
Indiana schools typically see many grade changes from one year to the next. In 2014, only 52.4 percent of schools received the same grade as the year before, while about 30 percent of schools improved from 2013 to 2014.
The 2015 grades approved by the board Tuesday showed none of that volatility. In Marion County, 11 of 186 schools, or 5.9 percent, received a higher grade than they did in 2014. That includes four schools in IPS, three schools in Decatur Township, two schools in Warren Township and one school each in Pike and Wayne townships. Every other school received the same grade.
Of the IPS schools that improved, three moved up from F-grades in 2014—School 55 and School 107 received Ds, and School 93 received a C. Key Learning Community High School got a B, up from a C in 2014.
Throughout Indiana, more than half of all schools received A-grades, 19.4 percent got Bs, 15.2 percent got Cs, 6.1 percent got Ds and 2.6 percent got Fs.
In Marion County, 38.2 percent of schools got As, 19.9 percent got Bs, 18.3 percent got Cs, 16.1 percent got Ds and 6.5 percent got Fs.
For schools that didn’t receive a grade in 2014—usually for new schools—the board decided Tuesday that if 2015 grade calculations would have given them an A, B or C, the schools would keep that grade. If the calculation resulted in a D or F, the school would have “no grade” for 2015 as well. Board member Gordon Hendry was the lone board member who voted against that strategy.
“It’s just my view that we should be one or the other and not ‘split the baby,’” Hendry said.
Ritz said that she was pleased lawmakers enacted the “hold harmless” legislation, but the root of the problem is ISTEP. She’s spoken in recent weeks about her plan to re-work the state’s testing system.
“While I appreciate the work of the Legislature to hold schools harmless for the results of last year’s ISTEP assessment, Indiana should move away from labeling Hoosier schools, and in turn Hoosier students, based on the results of a lengthy, pass/fail, high-stakes assessment,” Ritz said in a statement.
Going forward, the state will switch to a new A-F model for this year’s grades that focuses on student test score growth.