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F-rated Indiana schools increase under new grading system

December 13, 2016

The number of Indiana schools that received failing marks roughly doubled, to 130, this year, while the number receiving A grades fell by half under new ratings for the 2015-16 academic year released by the Indiana Department of Education on Tuesday.

The ratings were the first under a new accountability system that had more rigorous standards and assessments. Outgoing state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said the new system "establishes a new baseline for school accountability grades."

Schools earning the highest ratings fell to 24 percent, a decline of more than 600 schools, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The school grades were based not only on the number of students who pass or fail the ISTEP standardized tests, but on whether those students improved. The new rating model is expected to lead to fewer "A'' schools, but help lower-performing schools boost their ratings if students show progress.

Jennifer McCormick, a Republican who is school superintendent in Yorktown and will become the state superintendent in January, raised questions about the new rating model.

"I know there are a lot of people still very concerned. A lot of it was just back to the administration of the exam. Does it really reflect what we're getting done in schools?" McCormick said.

In all, 23.6 percent of schools earned an A, 38.9 percent received a B, 22.7 percent got a C grade, 8.8 percent received a D and 6.1 percent got an F, Department of Education data show.

Chalkbeat Indiana has put together a searchable database that lets users look up the results of individual schools.

According to Chalkbeat, Indianapolis Public Schools had just three schools get As—4.4 percent of the district’s 68 total schools.

Only eight IPS schools saw their state grades go up, and 30 schools had lower grades from the state than in 2015. Two district schools, Cold Spring and School 56, saw their grades drop from As to Fs. Both had sharp declines in the ISTEP passing rates after the state switched to a harder test in 2015.

The ratings not only affect the perception of a school's quality, but they also can influence bonuses teachers receive in their annual evaluations. It's unknown when teachers will receive their performance pay this year.

Data show a greater percentage of charter schools received an F grade than traditional public schools. Less than 5 percent of Indiana's traditional public schools are failing, but nearly a quarter of charter schools are in the latest ratings.

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