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Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:00 am

School grades might expand

State board also OKs A-to-F formula

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Indiana schools could soon be graded on students' science and social studies scores and whether high-school freshmen failed multiple core subjects.

Educators are already opposing the proposed changes to the A-to-F formula, which the State Board of Education advanced Wednesday despite some board members' efforts to delay.

Changes to the current accountability rule are needed to better align with new federal guidelines and recent changes to Indiana's graduation requirements.

Wendy Robinson, superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, shared her concerns with the local school board Monday night.

“There's nothing more critical than how we're going to be labeled through the A to F,” she said.

The public will get its say before the final vote. Feedback will be accepted through various methods, including at public meetings and through email, sboe_comment@sboe.in.gov.

The public comment period ends in April.

The timing of Wednesday's vote allows the changes, if approved, to be in place for the 2018-19 academic year.

Discussion focused mostly on whether to push the presented draft forward for public comment and less on the merits of the specific changes.

Changes include adding a “well-rounded” indicator based on science and social studies scores for elementary and middle-school students.

“Now, when I think about well-balanced,” Robinson said, “I'm not thinking about science or social studies test scores.”

An “on-track” indicator is proposed for high schools. It would focus on whether students, by the end of their freshman year, have at least 10 course credits and didn't get more than one F in English/language arts, math, science or social studies.

State board officials said high school indicators have to be updated to account for the new graduation pathways approved in December. Beginning with the 2023-24 academic year, the existing college and career readiness indicator will no longer apply, according to agenda documents.

Bluffton High School Principal Steve Baker raised multiple concerns to the state board, including about what will be lost.

“It eliminates growth entirely at the high school,” he said. “That's huge.”

Under his calculations, Baker said, Bluffton's accountability grade would fall from an A to a C.

“This plan will affect every school in the state of Indiana,” he said.

asloboda@jg.net