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Last updated: Fri. Sep. 20, 2013 - 02:26 am EDT

Panel begins work on grading model

Ritz, Yager team on new standard to judge schools

INDIANAPOLIS — A panel of statewide education experts given the task of creating a new A-F grading system for schools got down to business Thursday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Steve Yager co-chaired the first meeting of the Accountability System Review Panel.

It was put together by Ritz, Gov. Mike Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

The goal is to move Indiana away from its current A-F accountability system for schools. The system is believed by many to be flawed because it focuses too much on student pass-fail rates on state assessments.

Legislators this year ordered a new system be crafted that focuses more on individual student growth or improvement.

The panel will give nonbinding recommendations by Nov. 1 to the State Board of Education, which will be make final decisions and put the system in place in the 2014-15 school year.

Yager acknowledged the group has little time to achieve its goals and will have a lot of homework in between its expected eight meetings.

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure that we have a transparent system that patrons and teachers, staff members, taxpayers, business folks can read and understand and make sense of,” he said. “We have a huge challenge.”

The panel started Thursday by receiving presentations on the history of accountability in Indiana, which started in 1999. State and federal law requires an accountability system for gauging school effectiveness.

Indiana’s system has changed several times over the years – getting more complex each time.

One thing the group will have to consider is how to make a unified model work for schools with different configurations, meaning they sometimes don’t have every grade.

This issue caused problems for former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who tweaked the formula to help a favored charter school and others in a similar situation. Ritz defeated him in November, and he went to Florida to become that state’s schools chief. He resigned recently after the changes were uncovered.

“We think we will come out with a good product that’s fair and transparent, and we have to get there,” Ritz said.

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