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January 15, 2014

School districts learn state A-F grades

NA-FC drops one letter; Clark districts unchanged

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Several weeks after individual schools learned their state-calculated A-F grades for 2013, it was the districts’ turn Wednesday after performance ratings were approved by the State Board of Education.

New-Albany Floyd County School Corp. and West Clark Community Schools both received “B” grades, although NA-FC fell from an “A” grade in 2012. West Clark’s letter grade was unchanged.

Clarksville Community School Corp. and Greater Clark County Schools received a “C,” which is the same mark they received in 2012.

NA-FC experienced the biggest change in points, falling 0.76 points [on a 4-point scale] in 2013 from 2012. Greater Clark saw the biggest rise, at 0.3 points. West Clark had the highest point total among the four public school districts in Clark and Floyd counties, at 3.14.

The grades have become increasingly important in recent years, being used to determine teacher pay, school funding and the potential for state takeover. Across the nation, school grades increasingly have been adopted by conservative education officials. Indiana first approved school assessments in 1999, and Tony Bennett, former superintendent of public instruction, later changed the labels to reflect A-F grades.

The new grades were calculated using the Bennett grading formula, which also will be used to calculate grades for the 2013-14 school year. Members of the state board are crafting a new A-F grading formula.

Four Indiana school districts received failing grades.

The A-F grades for the state’s 289 districts were developed after the board released ratings for individual schools last month.

The new ratings give A’s to 94 districts, while 82 received B’s, 91 C’s, and 18 D’s, The Indianapolis Star reported. Those given F’s are the Indianapolis Public Schools, the Medora Community Schools in Southern Indiana’s Jackson County and the Gary and East Chicago districts in Lake County.

Six districts received failing grades last year. The Kokomo and Hammond districts improved from F’s last year to D ratings.

The Indianapolis district, which has about 29,000 students, received an F based on a score of 0.96 on a 4-point scale. Last year, the district’s score was 0.24.

The Board of Education approved the district ratings with little of the controversy between board members and Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz that surrounded the December release of the individual school grades.

The state board is setting new standards for A-F grades to be used in the 2014-15 school year.

Ritz told WTHR-TV that the revised standards will put more emphasis on whether students are improving on standardized tests, rather than ranking them among students statewide.

“The big difference is that the growth component in this new system will be based upon individual student growth, each individual child,” Ritz said. “They won’t be in comparison to their peers around the state.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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