Lorey surprised by possible changes to school grades


Indiana’s A-F grade school accountability system could undergo changes in the near future and one Dubois County school corporation superintendent said the news came as a complete surprise.

Wednesday, the State Board of Education tentatively adopted a controversial proposal for how all Indiana schools will be graded that places a higher importance on test performance than student growth in high schools.

The approval marked the beginning of a lengthy implementation process that will include a public comment period before its final adoption. If ultimately approved, the changes could go into effect beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

“First of all, I’d like to say a lot of us were very surprised by this piece of rulemaking that the board just put out (Wednesday),” said Tracy Lorey, superintendent of Greater Jasper Schools. “There had been no conversation with educators at all about the potential of making changes to the accountability calculation, and we were kind of surprised by that.”

Other discussed tweaks include the gauging of well-roundedness in elementary students and middle schoolers by assessing science and social studies test scores as well as measuring high school students by the number of course credits and failing grades they accumulate as freshmen.

Lorey stressed that the letter grades don’t provide data that informs instruction in the classroom, but she noted they do impact public perception of a school and can help or hurt the morale of a corporation. Repeated failure can also lead to state intervention.

Currently, elementary and middle schools are graded evenly on their ISTEP scores and student growth-to-proficiency from the previous year’s test. The new changes would still weight performance and growth evenly at 42.5 percent, with new English language proficiency, attendance and the well-roundedness factors filling in the remaining 15 percent.

At the high school level, the student growth criteria would be scrapped entirely, replaced by a greater emphasis on graduation rate, testing, English language proficiency and the on-track measures.

Lorey said no matter how the accountability system changes, her schools will continue to successfully educate students.

“We’ve seen an awful lot of change and it seems like the targets continually move in the state of Indiana,” Lorey said. “And I think it becomes really challenging for schools to just turn on a dime, to readjust in light of the constant moving target.”

When the 2016-17 school grades were released in October, Jasper High School received an A, Jasper Middle school a B, Ireland Elementary snagged an A and both Fifth Street School and Tenth Street Elementary received B’s.

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