Indiana released 2019 A-F grades for schools and districts Wednesday in a quiet rollout that points to the diminished meaning of the measure.
Last month, lawmakers passed a two-year “hold harmless” provision to protect schools and teachers from the negative consequences of low ILEARN scores. Scores dropped to a new low in the first year of the new state standardized exam.
The hold harmless provision blocks a school’s grade from falling by allowing it to be calculated using 2018 scores if those scores were higher than the current year. That helped most schools in the state: Only 120 schools scored well enough in 2019 to see their grades increase, a Chalkbeat analysis found.
As widely expected, the exemption means 2019 A-F grades look a little rosier: Most schools—73%—received an A or B. Fewer schools received an F compared to the year before.
Without the exemption, state officials said most schools would have received a D or an F. That would have affected teacher’s evaluations, and therefore pay, and put many schools on the path to state intervention.
But it also makes it difficult to judge how schools are truly performing. State Board of Education members didn’t discuss the results before approving them on Wednesday. And unlike previous years, the Indiana Department of Education released a bare-bones spreadsheet that didn’t break down how schools’ grades were calculated or what scores were factored in, saying that would “undermine the hold harmless.”
Under the state’s second accountability measure, known as federal grades, most of Indiana’s schools were considered to be meeting or approaching the state’s expectations. The federal measure, released in January, was not included in the hold harmless and was calculated using the low 2019 scores.
A-F grades for individual school can be found here.
Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.