(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - A lot of local schools earned A’s in the latest ratings from the Indiana Department of Education, now more reminiscent of a report card than progress ratings.
On Monday, the department revealed its PL 221 metric ratings under the No Child Left Behind Act’s Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, benchmarks . The ratings are based on student performance, attendance, and improvement data from the state’s spring ISTEP+ test and, for high schools, end of course assessments.
This year, the department began attaching letter grades – just like a student’s report card “A” through “F” - to the ratings in hopes that the general public would easier understand how their schools were performing.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said the switch to letter grades aim to increase transparency and engagement in school communities.
“Parents, educators and students deserve an accountability system that is clear and transparent,” Bennett said. “Communities should have the opportunity to celebrate their ‘A’ schools and reward their educators for driving academic growth. Our best schools are a source of pride that I hope will inspire efforts across the state.”
More than half of Indiana’s public schools were so-called “A and B” students. Forty-two percent of Indiana’s schools earned an “A” letter grade, or “Exemplary,” rating. Another nine percent were designated “B” or “Commendable.”
The number of schools receiving an “F” or “Academic Probation” ranking decreased by 50 percent from 2011 to 2010 and is at its lowest point in state history.
Only 775 schools statewide earned the “A” grade, or “Exemplary” rating, including 14 local schools:
Batesville High School
Rising Sun High School
Batesville Intermediate School
Sunman-Dearborn Intermediate School
Greendale Middle School
Milan Middle School
Ohio County Middle School
Moores Hill Elementary
South Ripley Elementary
It is possible that a number of other southeast Indiana schools could have performed better than their letter grade indicates, but under the department’s system a school cannot earn higher than a “C” or “Academic Progress” unless they make AYP for two consecutive years.
Disparities such as these are why many educators say parents and others need to dig deeper into the ratings.
Take South Dearborn High School for example. The building earned a “C” or “Academic Progress” rating in 2011 after being labeled an “F” or “Academic Probation” school in 2010. This year, over 83 percent of students at South Dearborn passed English and math portions of the ISTEP and end of course assessments for English and Algebra, up 13.9 percent from 2010.
“Even though our actual scores would give us a higher grade, we are capped at a ‘C,’” explained South Dearborn High School principal Rob Moorhead, referencing a “flawed federal system” in No Child Left Behind.
“Using the PL 221 chart we would grade out at ‘Exemplary Progress’ or an ‘A,’” Moorhead said.
Meanwhile, smaller schools are less likely to have 30 or more students in subgroups which can prevent them from making AYP.
Rising Sun High School, which was among the state’s “A” schools, did not face a cap and received the top grade despite a lower passing percentage of 73.3 and a smaller 10.8 percent improvement than South Dearborn.
Rising Sun High School students on free and reduced lunch programs were not factored into AYP because Rising Sun has fewer than 30 students in that subgroup. However, those free and reduced lunch students were factored in at South Dearborn High School, which prevented South Dearborn from making AYP, thus capped at a “C.”
The department said in a news release Monday the State Board of Education has indicated it will likely remove the AYP cap from accountability metrics beginning next year.
Two Batesville Community Schools buildings were commended for making AYP in 2011, just as they have every year since the PL 221 placements began in 2003. They were Batesville High School and Batesville Primary School.
As for southeast Indiana’s school districts, all earned an “A” with two exceptions. Lawrenceburg Community Schools received a “C” for making “Academic Progress” in 2011 after being rated “Watch” – or what would be a “D” this year – in 2010.
Franklin County Community Schools received a “D” in 2011 after falling from “Exemplary” in 2010. There, 75.8 percent of students met their performance benchmark, up just 0.8 percent from the prior year.
The list of your child’s school and district grades can be found on the Department of Education website, www.doe.in.gov.
IDOE PL 221 Ratings - http://www.doe.in.gov/assessment/pl221_embargoed.html