Indiana’s A Through F Rating System Remains Murky and Misleading

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By Andrew Pillow

Indiana has just released the school ratings for the 2016-2017 school year. The ratings are from A to F. A being a good rating, F being a poor rating. This year the State Board of Education is reporting a higher number of As.

The fact that more schools are receiving As can only be considered great news. However, what does receiving an A mean? For that matter, what does receiving an F mean? Well, there is an actual metric to determine the grades, but it isn’t user-friendly. It suffices to say that there are a few different metrics that schools can be judged on but the main two are performance and growth. 

Those two measures make sense to use, provided everyone is clear on how and when they are used but that is not the case. You see some schools are judged only on performance. Some schools are judged only on growth. Some schools are judged on growth, performance and everything in between. 

So to revisit the question from the second paragraph: What does an A really mean?

  • It can mean that you scored well on the state standardized tests.
  • It could mean you scored poorly on the standardized tests, but less poorly than you did the year before.
  • It could mean a combination of both those things or in the case of an F rated school, the lack thereof.

This type of system is problematic because these grades are public facing. Although information about how the grades are calculated is publicly available, it is unreasonable to expect stakeholders like families and students to know the ins and outs of how the grades are calculated. And, because most people would probably naturally define a “good school” as a school that scores well on the standardized tests, the A through F scale can be downright misleading.  

There are schools that will receive A ratings this year that will more than likely not receive them next year and that change will be due to the way their grade is calculated, not how the school is run or performed on exams.

Imagine yourself as a parent, enrolling your child in an A-ranked school only to watch it become an D or F rated school the next year. Not only would this come as a shock to the less informed parent, but one would imagine that they would be pretty mad as well. Parents may feel like they were lied to or misled. And considering the fact that the schools who received As based primarily on growth will likely not advertise that they may still have low scores on the standardized tests, said parents may have a pretty decent argument.

This is not to say that Indiana shouldn’t judge schools on growth. This is not to say Indiana shouldn’t judge schools on proficiency. However, we need a rating system that is consistent across the board so that parents can make informed decisions.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.