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  • FILE Holland Elementary School students participating in activities prior to taking state exams.

Thursday, January 12, 2017 12:12 pm

District grades called 'irrelevant'

Niki Kelly and Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

School district officials in Allen County have a word for the new accountability grades released Wednesday: irrelevant.

"As [Superintendent] Dr. [Wendy] Robinson stated last month when school grades were released, we do not focus on these labels, which are based on a flawed system," Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman said in a statement. "This latest release is not an event for us."

Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel issued a similar statement. His response to the school accountability grades – which he described in December as irrelevant to the district – also applies to the corporation grade, he said.

"As we continue conversations with local employers and representatives of post-secondary institutions, we realize to help our students become contributing members of our community, our focus must not be on memorizing standardized information for a standardized test that offers no information in helping us determine the learning needs of our students," he said in the statement.

"Instead, we must remain focused on nurturing the creativity of our students while developing their communication, collaboration and critical and algorithmic thinking skills."

In Allen County, all districts received a B except Fort Wayne Community Schools, which earned a C.

The local breakdown generally matches the overall range of grades across the state – 8 percent of districts received A’s, 60 percent B’s, 29 percent C’s, nearly 2 percent D’s and less than 1 percent F’s.

The grades were the first under a new accountability calculation that resulted in much fewer A’s. The same trend showed up last month when individual school accountability grades were released, as there were fewer A’s and F’s but more grades in the middle.

In 2015, a hold-harmless approach allowed districts to receive the better of either the 2013-14 grade or the 2014-15 grade. In Allen County, every district received an A except for FWCS, which received a B.

East Allen County Schools noted the drop in A districts – 23, down from 132 – between 2015 and 2016.

"When you consider the fact that these grades are based on the flawed ISTEP+ exam, I think it speaks highly of the job our staff is doing in preparing our kids for success in spite of the test," Superintendent Ken Folks said in a statement.

The Southwest Allen County Schools superintendent encouraged legislators to create a better accountability system.

"SACS is disappointed with the Corporation Final Grades released today but is not surprised given the issues surrounding the development of the ISTEP+ test, and the technological issues caused by (testing company) Pearson’s performance in its implementation," Philip Downs said in a statement.

Only one district received an F – Gary Community Public Schools. Five districts earned a D – none in northeast Indiana.

nkelly@jg.net

asloboda@jg.net