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School-grading panel pushes more testing

– A panel of educators from around the state wrapped up weeks of detailed work Monday by approving recommendations for a new A-F school grading model that includes adding state tests to four more grades.

The plan also will track individual student growth on standardized tests as well as overall student performance – a significant change from the current calculation.

“The intent is a simpler model that shows where you are moving to,” said Steve Yager, co-chair of the group and superintendent at Southwest Allen County Schools. “Parents want to know how their child improved over the 180 days.”

Students currently take ISTEP+ tests in third through eighth grades and in 10th. The panel recommends adding testing in first and second grades, as well as ninth and 11th in the future.

The tests would cover math, English and reading.

This will better allow the state to measure a student’s growth and provide more data points in the calculations, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who co-chaired the group.

She said the move could reduce the number of local tests already given by schools looking to gauge student skills.

Ritz and Yager will present the recommendations to the State Board of Education Nov. 8. That board must ultimately pass a new A-F grading model in November.

The final report recommends beta testing of the new model in the 2013-14 school year, which would involve running both the current and new A-F grading models side-by-side.

The new model would become official in the 2014-2015 school year.

Only one member voted against the final report, which encompassed the conceptual model but did not include statistical analysis of the model.

“I don’t have clarity on some key components of the model,” said Derek Redelman of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

He especially did not like the definition – or lack thereof – of what will count as targeted growth for a student.