Thursday, February 21, 2013

Superintendent Ritz Wins One as Senate Committee Unanimously Votes to Scrap Bennett's A-F Grading System

One of the areas where there was considerable behind the scenes disagreement between Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and legislative Republicans in the last couple sessions was in the area of grading schools.  Bennett proposed the current A-F grading system.  His system leaned heavily on performance as opposed to improvement.  As a result, many schools that are on the cutting edge of reform and had experienced dramatic improvement were still be labeled as D or failing schools despite that improvement.   Also, because improvement was still being measured as part of the grade, some highly performing public and private schools saw their grades dragged down because they weren't sufficiently improving.
Glenda Ritz

In short, performance and improvement are too different concepts and many viewed it as unworkable to lump them together into a single grade.  When Bennett lost the election to Democrat Glenda Ritz, a critic of Bennett's A-F grading system, that freed legislators of both stripes to unite to scrap the system.   The Republic reports:
 A Republican-controlled state Senate committee agreed Wednesday with the new Democratic state schools superintendent that Indiana's A-F grading scale for individual schools should be scraped.

The unanimous vote by Senate Education Committee backing Superintendent Glenda Ritz on one of her top campaign issues last year came a day after a House committee approved a bill that would take away from her the administration of the state's private school voucher system.

The Senate bill would throw out the A-F grading system that was issued for the first time in 2011 and have the state Board of Education develop a new system for tracking school improvement.

About 60 percent of Indiana's more than 2,000 public and private schools received grades of A or B under scores released in October. Several educators testified Wednesday about instances where their schools had consistently high student test scores but received low grades because students hadn't shown enough improvement.

Sen. Jim Banks
Ritz, who took office last month, told the committee that she believed using a single grade for schools wasn't effective when trying to track both student performance and whether they are improving. She said more than 100 schools had appealed their scores but that she couldn't give them clear answers on how the scores were determined.

"I'm in favor of reporting out the raw data rather than trying to find some way to combine the score into a grade," Ritz said. "I think we'll have the very same problem of trying to tell people what that grade really represents when we really do have to measure two different things."

The A-F scale was backed by Republican Superintendent Tony Bennett — whom Ritz defeated in the November election — despite widespread opposition from teachers and other groups, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

No one defended the grading system during Wednesday's hearing on the bill to repeal it.

"I've concluded that the current model is flawed and doesn't do what it was intended to do," said Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City.

During the campaign, Ritz proposed separating out the two measures of achievement and growth, but instead of A-F wanted a system that labeled the schools as a “reward,” “focus” or “priority” school in each of the two measures.  I am not a fan of gobbledygook euphemisms like that which are often used in education.  I like the A-F labels.  I just don't think you can lump achievement and growth together and hand out a single grade.

Click here for an explanation of how the A-F grading system for schools work and what grade each school received.


Had Enough Indy? said...

Unfortunately, accountability has not taken root in the education system. That's why Ritz likes that 'gobbledegook'.

Why can't they use A-F and give an E for effort?

Paul K. Ogden said...

I think they should use the A-F, with two grades. I don't know how you can lump performance and improvement together. I think you have to recognize improvement. You shouldn't flunk schools making dramatic improvement.