NewsEducation / July 25, 2019

Committee Starts To Rethink Indiana's School Accountability System

Committee Starts To Rethink Indiana's School Accountability System

School Accountability Panel meets Thursday, July 25, 2019 at the Indiana Government Center.

Indiana Department of Education/YouTube

The accountability system for Indiana's public schools could change. Yet whether that means added flexibility to the controversial A-F format or blowing up the system entirely remains to be seen.

The General Assembly created a 15-member committee to consider how accountability metrics can be aligned in the new era of graduation pathways -- the myriad of options for students to earn a degree for college, trade school or military.  The General assembly may consider the panel's recommendations next year.

During the panel's first meeting Thursday, members sketched broad ideas about accountability metrics. Some said metrics should not harm a school if students change diploma tracks midstream. Others asked how a students' post-graduation success should be valued when it varies from a four-year degree to running a farm.

Currently, a combination of state test scores, student's academic growth and graduation rates determine a school's A-to-F grade.

Perry Township Schools Superintendent Pat Mapes, committee co-chair and State Board of Education member, said the group should consider working from a "clean sheet of paper" when brainstorming a new accountability system.

"This is not going to be the solution. We are not making decisions here. It's conversations. I think the things we have to remember is: what do we have to change legislatively? What do we have to change in policy? What do we have to change in the whole system?"

The School Accountability Panel marks the third time school accountability measurements have been reviewed since the initial adoption in 1999. In 2011 the A-F system was created to replace descriptive ratings with letter grades. In 2013, changes were approved that scored students on how much they improved academically on standardized tests compared to the past year, and rated on college- and career-readiness.

The panel has three main statuary charges from legislators: post-college metrics aligned to graduation pathway requirements, such as graduation rate; on-track indicators based on student credit; and post-secondary outcomes. 

"That's pretty global," said Byron Ernest,  committee co-chair and State Board of Education member. There's a lot of room there in the circle to do that work."

Steve Baker, Blufton High School principal in Wells County, urged the panel to rethink how the state grades schools. One idea he offered: do away with A-F system for high schools and create a data-rich dashboard that rates many areas.

Such a change would take legislation, but Baker believes it's worth it.

"You can have all this discussion, but when it boils down to a letter grade -- that is all people will look at," he said.

The School Accountability Panel will meet five more times. Members include school principals; Teresa Lubbers, Commission for Higher Education; State Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, chairman of the House Education Committee; and business representatives.

Recommendations are due to lawmakers and the State Board of Education on Oct. 30. Recommendations could lead to legislation in the 2020 General Assembly or change on how the State Board of Education oversees accountability.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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