Indiana finalizes new A-to-F model for 2015-16

Indiana’s new A-to-F school letter grade model was given final approval by state officials today for use during the 2015-16 school year.

The new A-to-F rules, which were passed by the Indiana State Board of Education in an 8-1 vote after contentious debate in May, change how grades will be calculated next spring. They then had to be approved by Gov. Mike Pence, the Attorney General’s office and the Legislative Services Agency. Now, the model equally weighs test passing rates and student test score improvement — the previous one didn’t significantly consider student growth.

Sarah O’Brien, a teacher in Avon and the vice chairwoman of the board, said the changes were met with approval from educators.

“This new A-F rule represents nearly two years of work led by Gov. Mike Pence, Superintendent Glenda Ritz and educators across the state,” she said. “It marks a major change in the way the state calculates school grades by giving equal weight to student performance and growth, a change many teachers and administrators across the state strongly supported.”

In elementary and middle schools, ISTEP scores will be the only factor that determine grades. For high schools, 60 percent of the score would include measures such as four-year and five-year graduation rate, the number of students who pass Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests and those who earn professional credentials before graduation.

But the new model would also make it difficult for all schools to earn A’s because of new federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and Indiana’s waiver agreement.

The U.S. Department of Education wants to make sure the state shows that all schools are making test score gains, even by a small margin. The department especially wants to see that students from specific subgroups — such as ethnic minorities, English language learners and those in special education programs — are improving.

If schools can’t show those gains, the best score they could get is a B.

For more on the new A-to-F letter grade rules, check out our previous reporting.