The Indiana State Board of Education approved a set of criteria recently to judge school performance, moving away from test scores and toward a holistic approach to judging how well schools are educating children.
“Students are so much more than a single test score,” said Dr. Katie Jenner, Indiana secretary of education. “To provide a more holistic view of school performance, the creation of the Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed (GPS) dashboard will offer a robust, transparent and nimble system that showcases outcomes that matter most to student success throughout their educational journey. Our team looks forward to continuing to actively engage with people across Indiana to capture the best indicators that create a pathway for growth and prosperity for our students.”
The dashboard will be a page or section on a website, where parents and others can look up how their child’s school or a prospective school is performing.
The criteria for grades K-8 include literacy and progress on English and math, but also student attendance, employability credentials, advanced coursework, the percentage of students participating in “meaningful extracurricular and co-curricular programing” and also “rigorous career exploration in grades K-8.”
It also includes the percentage of eligible students who enroll in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program, which covers the cost of a college education for low-income Indiana students at public universities and colleges.
The criteria approved for grades 9-12 include SAT scores; the percentage of students on track to graduate on time; the number of students doing advanced coursework (AP classes, and also IB, dual college credit and Cambridge International Course Completion); attendance rates; FAFSA completion rates; number of students who go directly to college or are employed or enlist in the military following graduation; median income at some point following high school graduation, and the labor force participation rate.
The Indiana Department of Education said high school graduates in the state “are not fully prepared for lifelong success,” pointing out that about 40% of high school students in Indiana have no plan for life after graduation. Only 25% of Indiana high school graduates earn a college degree or other credential in the four years after high school and only 33% earn one in six years.
The state said the creation of the new dashboard is “part of Indiana’s broader initiative to re-envision how the state defines and measures success for students and schools.”
Indiana’s current school accountability system dates to 2011, when the General Assembly passed a bill to grade schools based on student scores on the state exams, now called ILEARN.
“Really, what we’ve done historically is we’ve looked at test scores as the only indicator,” said Brandon Brown, CEO of The Mind Trust, an organization in Indianapolis that helps start and support new charter schools. “Test scores certainly matter, but that’s not a comprehensive way to look at school performance.”
Brown said he doesn’t think the dashboard represents a move away from accountability for schools, or a move away from academic rigor, something he talked about in testimony to the Indiana General Assembly last session.
He notes how schools are graded in Indiana hasn’t changed, and it would take a change in law by the Indiana General Assembly to change it.
Before arriving at the new criteria that will be included on the dashboard, the state identified five characteristics of a successful high school graduate – academic mastery, career and post-secondary readiness; communication and collaboration; work ethic; and civil, financial and digital literacy.
The dashboard is being developed and the new performance measures for schools established pursuant to a law passed by in the last session. House 1514 directed the Indiana Department of Education and the State Board of Education to put together a dashboard that would promote transparency in school performance.
Indiana grades schools using the letters A-F, but schools were not given grades last year due to the disruptions in learning, which included many schools switching to virtual learning for at least part of the school year.
The school grades given for the 2019-2020 school year were based on the best grade schools received in the prior three years as the ILEARN was canceled in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
John O’Neill, with the Indiana State Teachers Association, said the teachers’ union supports the “move away from the heavy reliance on standardized testing.”
“As you know, every year we push to have multiple measures of accountability instead of just a single snapshot…this is a good step in the right direction,” he said.
He added ISTA had several concerns, including about schools being held accountable for student outcomes after graduation, and he said the “underlying theme” in comments from teachers who are members of the union is the criteria “still tend to have a bias toward the higher socio-economic status.”
“We would really like to see some continued effort to address that,” he said. “This, as much of the other work going on right now, ISTA believes should be viewed through a racial and social equity lens, as not all districts are uniform across the state…”
The Indiana Department of Education said it will continue to “refine” the criteria to be used on the dashboard over the coming months.
This article was originally posted on Indiana wants holistic view of school performance