After All of the Controversy, Indiana Will Still Use Letter Grades and ISTEP

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Depending on who you ask, the A-F letter grading system is either a great way to hold schools accountable or a way for the state to penalize inner city schools. The standardized test used to give the grades, the ISTEP, is almost universally believed to be a flawed test. Either way, Indiana will be dealing with both a little while longer.

Indiana’s much maligned rating system and state test will be in use for at least another year or two.  

Indiana’s opposition to the A-F letter grade system for schools goes back years. People on both sides of the aisle have voiced opposition to the system. Some say the grading system isn’t fair. Others say the system favors certain types of schools over others.

Both the current and previous superintendent campaigned on ending or scaling back the system and it looked like that was finally going to come to fruition. However, the State Board of Education is now going to hold off on changes for another year. Originally, the board wanted a new system in place for the 2018-19 school year. Now they are planning to wait until the 2019-20 school year.

Historically the A-F grade a school received was based entirely, or in part on their ISTEP scores. ISTEP has faced criticism for its length and the amount of time it takes for schools to receive the results. Due to its unpopularity, Indiana was planning to move away from the ISTEP. While they have started replacing the test at the lower levels, high schoolers, particularly 10th graders will have to wait a while.

The ultimate plan appears to be using a national college entrance exam like the SAT to test juniors. That is not expected to happen until 2022. Which means sophomores will still take the ISTEP for two more years.  Superintendent Jennifer McCormick says using the ISTEP is more practical than creating a brand-new exam for only two years.

So, after all the complaints and promises, it looks like Hoosiers are going to have to wait a little bit longer to be rid of ISTEP and the grading system based off of it. These decisions obviously take time and shouldn’t be rushed, but the citizens of Indiana have been waiting long enough. It shouldn’t take this long to do make a change that almost everyone agrees we should do. Hopefully, the changes come soon because not having an agreed upon, universal way to assess students or school quality is more than just the mild inconvenience the board is making it out to be… particularly for students and families.   

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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.