Indiana Considers Pausing School Accountability Penalties—Again

By Daarel Burnette II — November 29, 2016 2 min read
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With a little more than half its students passing its standardized test, Indiana is again considering sparing schools from its sweeping accountability penalties this year, according to the Associated Press.

Incoming state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, a Republican who ousted union-backed Superintendent Glenda Ritz in the recent election, said that because schools dealt with computer glitches and didn’t have sufficient time to adjust to new statewide standards, they should be sheltered from any repercussions from failing grades.

Just 52 percent of students in the state passed the English and math sections of the state’s test, ISTEP, exam last year.

Indiana has been on a collision course for some time now.

Over the last decade, the state’s legislature ramped up its accountability system. It switched to an A-F grading system, and, for the schools that fell into the academic bottom 5 percent, took over failing schools and either closed them or handed them over to charter operators, fired entire staffs, and replaced its principals and reorganized central offices.

At the same time, the state adopted and then got rid of the Common Core State Standards before revamping its new written standards several times over. The changes in standards resulted in changes to the state’s standardized test. Indiana changed test vendors and then attempted to conduct the exam online, a process that led to teachers and principals to complain about technical glitches. An investigation by the Indianapolis Star last December revealed that vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill may have botched the 2015 exam’s scores.

Most of the turnaround efforts have been concentrated in the state’s urban mostly minority and impoverished areas. But those efforts have now spread into the state’s suburbs and rural areas, areas where rapid turnaround is much more expensive and politically challenging. That’s resulted in a backlash among the state’s politically powerful superintendents and local school board members.

Indiana does not yet have permission from the U.S. Department of Education to place a moratorium on its accountability system, placing millions of federal dollars at risk, according to the AP.

Indiana isn’t alone. Across the country, educators and parents have begun to question the validity of state accountability systems and pressed for moratoriums or entire rewrites under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In Ohio, a state with a similar history of tough accountability and wavering standards, Norm Glismann, the superintendent of Tecumseh, Ohio, told the Dayton Daily News last week that receiving a D on the state’s report card meant little. Every school in his district, except one, received a D on the state’s report card this year and the district received an overall F on its ability to close its achievement gaps between white students and students of color.

“I had that feeling, so when I looked I wish they were better but I was not shocked or surprised,” he told the newspaper, adding that he’s spoken to graduates who are very pleased with the education the district has provided. “I just don’t think the results portray an accurate picture of the education that students are receiving in our district and in other districts.”

The federal department of education released last week its new accountability regulations.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


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