By April Toler
The state’s new A-to-F school grades are being kept under wraps as school districts try to decipher the data that determine the grades.
The state announced the new A-to-F grading system earlier this year, as a way to include measures to more accurately portray growth in individual students’ test scores from year to year. But it appears changes to the system have caused some discrepancies between the Indiana Department of Education and some school districts, which in part has caused the official release of the numbers to be later than expected.
This is the second year schools have received letter grades under the DOE’s letter grade system and the first year for grades under the new system, which includes the “growth” measure.
While the former grading system focused on pass/fail rates on standardized tests, Stephanie Sample, director of communications at the Indiana Department of Education, said the new system will also include participation rates, student growth and college/career readiness metrics.
Those additional measures have caused school districts to take a closer look at this year’s data, Sample said.
“It’s more comprehensive, with many more points of locally supplied data,” Sample said. “Local districts are taking a closer look at that data now than ever before — which we think is good.”
Administrators at Monroe County Community School Corp. have been reviewing the data. Superintendent Judy DeMuth said deciphering the data that determines the grades, and coming to an agreement with the state regarding that data, has been challenging.
“Some of our concerns include the length of time it has taken to receive the reports and the changes that have been numerous without explanations,” DeMuth said via email. “In addition, the DOE has been unable to produce the roster of students that are included in each cohort group used to determine points for performance and improvement.”
Some discrepancies between the DOE’s data and MCCSC’s numbers, according to DeMuth, involve the list of students who passed the end-of-course assessment or graduation qualifying exam that MCCSC thinks should be included in the improvement rosters. DeMuth said the district also disagrees with data that is not allowed to be used for New Tech High School’s categories being used for the district’s summary report.
“Since possible bonus areas are not available for New Tech yet, it does not seem appropriate to include the areas that are penalties only,” DeMuth said.
Sample attributed delaying the public release of the grades to the DOE’s decision to extend the appeal window after receiving feedback from principals and superintendents wanting more time to review the results.
Sample said she believes both the state and school districts will “be more familiar with the new metrics and what to expect in terms of data submission and analysis” in the future.