Indiana News

Critics Dominate Hearing On School Grading Changes

Say proposal to add growth metric to A-to-F school grading system will lead to more state takeovers

1/17/2012


Lawrence Township Superintendent Concetta Raimondi criticizes proposed school grading changes (WIBC.com photo: Ray Steele)

Critics were virtually the only people who showed up for a public hearing on proposed rules changes they claim will lead to more schools being taken over by the state.

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State school superintendent Tony Bennett was not at the hearing, and only one state school board member was on hand to hear dozens of complaints about the proposal to tweak Indiana's A-to-F school grading system.

Concetta Raimondi, Superintendent of Lawrence Township Schools, says the board's good intentions were ill-conceived, and claimed it would lead to private companies being brought in by the state to run schools that don't need the help. "Grading schools absent any reference to qualitative data and subsequently identifing schools for private takeover have inherent, unintended consequences."

The proposed change is a so-called "growth model" also used in Colorado. Schools recieve credit for high growth if their students' performance is better than two-thirds of all students. Critics such as Vic Smith of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education call this a quota system. "Every year, 34-percent of all students will be low growth and 34-percent of students will be high growth whether it was a year of great achievement or poor achievement."

But Alex Damron, a spokesman for Bennett, says it's teachers who have been asking the state to provide a measure of their students' growth. "For the first time, we're giving credit to schools and educators who may have students begin the school year performing well below grade level, but end the school year, even if they don't pass the end of year assessment, having improved quite a bit." Smith, however, says the new rules do the opposite. "Instead of setting up categories based on improvement, the proposed rules base letter grades on performance."

Some advocates, like Chuck Little with the Indiana Urban Schools Association, all but accused the board of purposely trying to tear down public schools so as to allow private or charter school companies to move in. "It's about time that the people of this state woke up and realized that while we have good and improving schools, public control of those schools is being taken away from us in a very planned and organized way," Little said.

Damron says Bennett and the board welcome all comments, and they will be considered when the board meets again on February 8th.

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