The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, November 12, 2021 1:00 am

Editorial

Remaking the grade

State's latest run at education assessment will benefit greatly from parental input

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

How should school quality and student achievement be measured?

It's a difficult question that Indiana has yet to figure out. Instead, the state's schizophrenic approach over the past 15 years has ranged from placing schools into nebulous accountability categories to then assigning A through F grades and later suspending the grades amid problems with standardized tests and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frustration from parents and educators over labels aside, the Indiana Department of Education – pushed by state lawmakers – is trying again.

This time, state officials have yet another new framework for K-12 accountability. Indiana schools now will be judged on academic mastery; career and postsecondary readiness; communication and collaboration; work ethic; and civic, financial and digital literacy.

The state Department of Education will develop an Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed dashboard “that is transparent and nimble as the global marketplace continues to change and as technology continues to advance,” according to a presentation given to the State Board of Education.

“As we work to develop this new dashboard, Indiana has an opportunity to re-envision how we are measuring school and student performance,” state Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a statement Wednesday.

Again?

The Indiana General Assembly this year passed a measure calling on the education department to change how the state measures success for students, individual schools and districts. The dashboard must be in place before the 2024-25 school year.

“Understanding that our students are so much more than a single test score or data point, these measures must be holistic and transparent, placing a focus on the knowledge and skills our students build across all grades as they prepare for their next steps after graduation, whether that's enrollment, employment or enlistment leading to service,” Jenner said.

The framework was approved by the Board of Education in October, and the state is now accepting public feedback on the new accountability measures. An online questionnaire asks respondents to rank by importance subcategories, such as strength of diploma, college or career credentials, service-based learning participation and attendance.

Action on the mandate comes amid a national backlash against standardized testing, which often provides more information on poverty than how well students are progressing or the quality of schools. Moving away from reliance on flawed tests such as ISTEP+ and ILEARN certainly is welcome, but it's not clear yet how the state will measure characteristics such as work ethic and communication and collaboration.

Board of Education members seemed confused with earlier and similarly broad topics presented in a meeting in September.

“I was disappointed to see you took creativity off of here,” Byron Earnest said to education department officials, according to Chalkbeat Indiana, which covers education in the state. “I don't know how you measure that either, but I think it's easier than grit.”

Grading systems so far have done little to foster student achievement or educational progress. Hoosier parents should make their voices heard on the latest proposal.

To participate

Feedback on the proposed Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed dashboard will be accepted until 5 p.m. Nov. 30. The state's questionnaire is available at bit.ly/3D9ssqG.


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