The 2016-2017 school accountability grades for all public schools, including charter schools, and for private schools accepting vouchers, were released by the Indiana Department of Education back in early October.
Following the release, it became apparent that some schools were being graded by a different yardstick than the rest. Here in Monroe County, we noticed that a new charter school received an "A" despite having some of the lowest rates in the county of passing both math and English ISTEP. Why? Local reporter Brittani Howell included the DOE's explanation in her Herald-Times story on school grades.
As the Indianapolis Star and the School Matters blog also reported, Indiana now bases grades for "new schools"--schools that have been open no more than three years--on their growth score only. Growth is derived through a comparison of students' test scores from one year to the next. Straight performance on ISTEP was not part of the grade calculation for these new schools. (So-called "innovation network" schools also received growth-only grading.) This meant that a school could have low test scores and still get an "A," as long as students had demonstrated growth from the previous year.
Many charters are new. Almost one in three were graded by growth only. Only 1% of district schools were graded by growth only.
Most public schools in Indiana are older than three years. These established schools at the elementary and middle school level were graded on a combination of growth and performance, with each counting fifty percent. Calculations were tethered by the performance score. If performance was low, it held the overall grade down, even if growth was excellent.
In practice, this meant that "new" schools with low test scores could receive much higher grades than neighboring schools with better test scores. For instance: Vision Academy, a K-8 charter school in Indianapolis with 76% free lunch, got an A with 17% of students passing the math section and 35% passing English/language arts. The Daniel Webster School is a K-8 school in the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) district with 75% free lunch. It had 38% passing math and 48 percent passing English/language arts. It received a D. The difference between Vision Academy and Daniel Webster, other than higher scores at the IPS school? The charter received the growth-only calculation; the public school received the performance and growth combined calculation.
Keep in mind that the supposed purpose of A-F grades was to improve transparency about school performance.
The Washington Township Parent Network released the following table on Facebook to show how their schools would look according to the growth-only yardstick.
We followed suit and built tables for our county and then for others throughout the state. You can find these "adjusted grades" below. We obtained the data from the 2017 A-F School Grade Results posted on the Indiana Department of Education web site. You can see our adjusted table here. To find what the growth-only grade would be according to the DOE data, look at the growth score in column G. Ninety and above is an A, 80 to 89.9 a B, 70 to 79.9 a C, etc.
Would you like us to build a chart for your county? Drop us a line on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Keri Miksza and Jenny Robinson
Click on the links here (the images will open in a separate window). Or scroll below.
Indianapolis Public Schools