Ritz Proposes Hold on Indiana School Letter Grades


Indiana Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz has suggested that the state Board of Education not give schools lower A-F grades for a year due to a drop in standardized test scores across the state.

Instead, Ritz proposed that the state should give updated A-F grades to individual schools on a case-by-case basis only if test scores had improved from the previous years. She said the drop in test scores had been expected due to changes in the ISTEP exam taken this spring and that she would like to offer schools additional transition time.

Schools could face a drop of two letter grades for even a small step down in test scores, causing the number of schools who receive an F in the state to jump from 87 to almost 150. She fears that would cause many schools in Indiana to be unfairly labeled as failing.

"We are assessing new standards and I don't want to give a false impression of what our schools really actually are doing in terms of student performance," Ritz said.

Tom Davies of WHAS reports that a decision is not expected by the board concerning this proposal until the fall. However, a vote earlier this week resulted in the board deciding to ask the attorney general's office to review its options according to the state's school assessment laws.

Board member Gordon Hendry said that while he was willing to look into the fairness of the grading system, he still held concerns pertaining to not giving lower grades for a year. "That doesn't really seem to be a fair way to approach it," said Hendry, who was appointed by Pence.

Sarah O'Brien, who was elected the State Board's new vice chair at the meeting, thought that talk of changing the A-F formula in any way was premature, since grades won't be out for months. "I am a little confused as to why we are having this conversation now before we have the scores back," O'Brien said. "It feels like we have kind of already decided that our kids are not capable and did fail."

Complaints from parents and educators came pouring in in February concerning the length of testing time for the ISTEP exam. The test had recently been redesigned to align with new state standards that had been created after Indiana's withdrawal from the national Common Core standards last year.

The new test was expected to take students 12 hours — double the time from last year. However, state Department of Education officials and experts hired by Pierce were able to eliminate a number of questions, reducing the amount of time spent on the exam by at least 3 hours.

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