You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Schools

  • EACS expects tax rates to decrease next year
    NEW HAVEN – Enrollment and staffing are down, circuit breaker losses are down and if all goes as projected, the tax rate for East Allen County Schools should decrease slightly next year.
  • Business panel proposes IU govern IPFW
    Indiana University, not Purdue University, should govern IPFW, and the state's performance funding formula should reflect the number of students who graduate in five or six years instead of four.
  • FWCS kicks off 2014-15 with rally
    They were told plenty of people were looking to tear them down, that they were in a war for the survival of public education and that they should be wary of politicians who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.
Advertisement

Schools get anticipated state grades

Local districts split A’s, C’s

Four months after Fort Wayne Community Schools denounced the state’s rating system for schools, district leaders Friday were faced with the long-awaited results.

“We can’t pretend they don’t exist, but it’s not going to be a focus of what we do every day,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

The State Department of Education issued accountability grades Friday for Indiana schools.

Overall, results show that more schools received A’s and B’s and fewer schools received C’s, D’s and F’s.

Some districts – including FWCS – said they won’t recognize the grades because of massive ISTEP+ testing interruptions in the spring.

They claim the testing problems invalidate many ISTEP+ scores used to calculate school rankings.

An independent study was done to show that the overall results were valid, though individual scores might be affected.

This additional work caused a delay in issuing the grades.

The Department of Education’s rating system assigns A to F grades to schools and districts based on student performance.

The grades are assigned to traditional public schools, charter schools and accredited non-public schools, as well as schools that participate in the Indiana Choice Scholarship program or that receive state-funded vouchers.

Statewide, about 44 percent of public schools, or 805, received an A. In comparison, 106 schools, or 5.7 percent, received an F.

When private schools are added, the number of A schools rises to 938 and F schools to 112.

Last year, 856 schools received a top ranking.

Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools received overall A grades, while East Allen County Schools and FWCS received C’s.

The Department of Education did not release overall school district rankings Friday.

Local scores split

Local districts were split in terms of whether individual school results improved, declined or remained the same.

Northwest and Southwest Allen County districts each had two schools that received higher grades, while FWCS and East Allen County districts each had seven schools that improved.

SACS had three schools that received lower grades and four remained the same. NACS had two schools with lower grades, while six remained the same.

Chris Himsel, NACS superintendent, said the district had two schools that were within 0.01 percent of a higher letter grade – Eel River and Arcola elementary schools.

“The bottom line is we’re really proud of the successes of all of our schools, students and teachers,” Himsel said.

“But the reality is we really don’t pay much attention to these ratings,” he said. “It’s just one piece of the achievement puzzle – and it’s the least important piece.”

SACS Associate Superintendent Philip Downs said the district will consider other methods of analyzing student growth, including data from the Northwest Education Association’s assessment.

“We prefer to have our growth measured based on how the child actually did this year compared to his or herself, rather than the method the state uses. It doesn’t seem to make any sense,” Downs said.

The current A to F system compares students to their peers, rather than making assessments on a student-by-student basis.

No East Allen County district schools received a lower grade than the year before, and eight schools remained the same.

“We are delighted with our scores and proud of our schools,” EACS Superintendent Ken Folks said.

Folks said he attributes the district’s improvement to data-driven education that includes assessments every few weeks.

FWCS had six schools that received a higher grade, 19 that received lower grades and 24 that did not change from last year, according to state data.

FWCS has eight A-rated schools, seven B-rated schools, 20 C-rated schools, 13 D-rated schools and one school with an F rating, according to the data.

According to state law, public schools that receive an F grade for six consecutive years are subject to state intervention.

This year, three traditional public schools in the area received F’s: Shawnee Middle School in FWCS and Wawasee Middle School and Tippecanoe Valley Middle School in Kosciusko County.

Stockman said Shawnee Middle was one of the schools most affected by the ISTEP+ interruptions.

Testing trials

The Department of Education hired an outside consultant to review the validity of scores of 80,000 students whose ISTEP+ exams were interrupted by computer errors. FWCS officials said they believe nearly half of the district’s 12,000 students taking the online test experienced interruptions.

The district reported that 277 Shawnee test takers were interrupted during the math portion of the test, and an additional 227 were disrupted during the English/language arts section, she said.

The district submitted the report of interruptions to the state, and state officials threw out just one of the nearly 500 interrupted tests, Stockman added.

“We don’t ever want to make excuses, but this goes back to what we’ve been saying since the spring. There were so many issues with this round of ISTEP+ testing that we can’t say these are valid results or a true indication of how these students performed,” she said.

EACS’ Folks said he understands the concerns of other districts and agrees that last year’s ISTEP+ tests didn’t offer the best testing conditions.

“Our district began testing Thursday, a couple days after other districts, and I think by that point, many of the glitches were worked out,” Folks said.

In August, FWCS board members voted in favor of a resolution that stated the board would no longer publicly recognize schools based on the letter grade assigned to a school through the state’s rating system.

And even before the ISTEP+ issues, everyone knew there were issues with the A to F grading system, Stockman said.

“When you take those grades and compare year to year, it looks like a consistent system, but it’s not been that way at all,” Stockman said.

Assessment changes

Soon, the formula will change again.

Lawmakers have already ordered that the formula used for calculating schools’ grades be changed because it was too complex and unfairly compared students to their peers instead of looking at growth. A new system will be used for the 2014-15 school year.

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett was criticized for tweaking the formula to ensure that a favored charter school received an A.

This year, that charter – Christel House in Indianapolis – received an F.

“Though this current model for calculating school accountability grades will be changing, the data does show that some great learning is occurring in our schools, and I want to congratulate our students for their successes,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said.

She said the new model will have a larger point system and avoid extreme jumps in grades for schools.

FWCS officials said they will continue to talk with state officials about the dangers of comparing data year to year when the system continually changes.

“We don’t get to make those decisions, but we have to keep doing what’s best for students,” Stockman said.

jcrothers@jg.net

Advertisement