HANCOCK COUNTY — Nearly every elementary and intermediate school in the county is poised to get an A or B for last year’s accountability grade despite ISTEP scores that are expected to plummet.
A bill proposed in the Indiana Senate would prohibit the Indiana State Board of Education from penalizing schools for low ISTEP scores when calculating accountability grades, which use an A-F scale.
If the bill passes, schools will not receive an accountability grade lower than what they earned in 2013-14.
Local educators are relieved to hear such a bill is being proposed; official scores for the test, which was administered to students in Grades 3 through 8 last spring, have not yet been released but are expected to drop 24 percentage points in mathematics and 16 points in language arts, according to projections from the Indiana Department of Education.
Administrators, teachers and parents have heavily criticized the test, which is based on more rigorous standards than recent years. Teacher pay and performance evaluations hinge on how their students fare on the test; historically, ISTEP scores have also factored into accountability grades.
Local state lawmakers have said they would support legislation that protects educators and schools from being negatively impacted by the test and expect legislation to be fast-tracked through the legislature, which convenes Tuesday.
Greenfield-Central School Corp. superintendent Harold Olin was happy to hear the bill was being proposed; he spent the last few weeks meeting with local lawmakers to discuss his concerns about last year’s test and its impact on Greenfield schools.
In 2013-14, all Greenfield-Central elementary and intermediate schools received an A or B accountability grade; he expected some of those to drop after last year’s ISTEP. He’s relieved to hear they won’t if the bill is passed.
Using last year’s ISTEP scores to evaluate schools would send the wrong message, he said, because last year’s test was harder than in previous years as the state moved toward new, more rigorous standards.
Additionally, educators didn’t have much time to prepare their students for the new test.
“I don’t think any school officials are opposed to accountability (grades),” Olin said. “We just want a system we have time to make the appropriate adjustments for.”
The bill, authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, also protects teachers from having their pay raises negatively affected by the 2015 ISTEP test scores.
The state requires administrators to factor ISTEP scores into teacher evaluations; if teachers were rated highly effective or effective based on the 2014 test scores but not for the 2015 scores, they will still qualify for a salary increase or performance stipend if the bill passes.
Mt. Comfort Elementary School principal Heather Whitaker said passing the law is the best course of action, since schools don’t yet have official scores for last year’s test, which was accompanied by a slew of problems.
She’s hopeful lawmakers pass the bill before the next round of ISTEP tests in March.
A Senate bill that is expected to be proposed during this year’s legislative session would not hold schools accountable for 2015’s ISTEP scores when the Indiana State Board of Education calculates accountability scores for last school year. If passed, schools won’t receive a grade lower than what they received in 2013-14. Here’s how Hancock County schools fared then:
Weston Elementary: A
JB Stephens: A
Harris Elementary: B
Eden Elementary: A
Maxwell Intermediate: B
Greenfield Intermediate: B
Mt. Comfort Elementary: A
McCordsville Elementary: C
Fortville Elementary: A
Sugar Creek Elementary: B
New Palestine Elementary: A
Eastern Hancock Elementary: A