Indiana's School Grading System In the Spotlight

Aug 5, 2013

The controversy surrounding Indiana’s former superintendent, Tony Bennett, is bringing new attention to the formula state officials use to issue letter grade performance ratings to schools. 

Now, one state lawmaker who called for a re-write of the A-F formula during the legislative session says the system should be re-tooled, not thrown out.

Indiana State Senator Luke Kenley.

The current formula grades schools using two very different types of measurements. On the one hand, there’s “performance,” or how many students pass state tests. On the other hand, there’s “growth” — how many students improved relative to their peers.  

Senator Luke Kenley says mixing growth and performance hasn’t worked.  

“The former grade was mixing those two into one grade and I thought that was creating confusion," Kenley said. "People couldn’t tell whether that was growth or actual performance."  

At Kenley’s urging, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law in April instructing the State Board of Education to write a new formula.  This was long before last year’s letter grades became national news.    

But Indiana Federation of Teachers president Rick Muir says recently released emails from Tony Bennett’s time in office show the A-F system is unfair — and lawmakers should put an end to it.  

“We’ve talked, we’ve talked, we’ve talked. We’re hoping some of those good legislators are starting to see the truth," Muir said.  

Kenley says he doesn’t think the Bennett emails will de-rail the re-write — or the A-F grading system in general.  

He says rating schools is an important policy — and the state has to get it right.   

“We just cannot afford not to continue with trying to improve education," Kenley said.  

Under the law Kenley helped to pass, the State Board of Education has to pass a re-written A-F grading formula by November 15.