School accountability grades coming in December

Posted at 6:30 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-16 18:30:46-04

Schools could receive their preliminary 2014-2015 accountability grades on December 1, thanks to a resolution passed Wednesday by the State Board of Education.

Accountability grades were delayed due to a scoring error with last year's ISTEP+ exams, and then further complicated when Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said she believed the rule authorizing the grading system had expired.

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ISBOE members voted Wednesday to authorize the Department of Education to grade schools using the 2013-2014 system, including amendments previously passed concerning atypical schools and college and career weighting for high schools.

ISBOE Spokesman Marc Lotter released a statement following the vote saying final grades would be delivered on January 18, rather than the March/April timeframe originally proposed by the Dept. of Education.

The resolution means five Indiana schools could find out this year whether they're in state takeover territory:

  • Options Charter School of Noblesville
  • Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Whiting
  • West Side Leadership Academy in Gary
  • Caze Elementary School in Evansville
  • Washington Middle School in Evansville

All five are facing a potential sixth "F" grade, which, under the old state takeover statute, allows the State Board of Education to step in – as they did with IPS' Arlington High School and other struggling schools across the state.

A new state takeover law signed in May by Gov. Mike Pence would allow the board to intervene sooner: After just four consecutive "F" grades. However, schools that already have four or five consecutive "F" grades were grandfathered under the rule. Those schools are:

  • Hoosier Academy Virtual School in Indianapolis
  • Joseph Block Middle School in East Chicago
  • Joyce Kilmer School 69 in Indianapolis
  • George H. Fisher School 93 in Indianapolis
  • Francis Scott Key School 103 in Indianapolis
  • Lodge Community School in Evansville

State takeover is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, however, even for schools facing their sixth "F." Unlike her predecessor Tony Bennett, Ritz has been reluctant to use takeover to deal with failing schools. In March, the board decided not to sanction Hoosier Academy Virtual School and Options Charter School in Noblesville, despite a pattern of failing grades, following a recommendation by Ritz and the Department of Education.

In Indianapolis, IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee has fought hard against state takeover. Instead, he has advocated for retaining local control and pursuing partnerships with outside organizations.

IPS chose School 103 in March as an "innovation" school – part of a partnership with charter school operator Phalen Leadership Academy. Phalen will independently manage the school. The hope is the charter school's model will succeed where others have failed.

CHALKBEAT | IPS chooses struggling School 103 as Phalen 'innovation' school

At George H. Fisher School 93, administrators are taking a different tactic. Principal Nicole Fama hopes the teacher-led Project Restore initiative will transform School 93's "F" into an "A" in just one year.

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“Failure, to us, can’t be an option,” Fama said. “These kids deserve a quality education, (and) we’re going to get them up to speed.”

BELOW: See RTV6 reporter Anne Kelly's report on Project Restore and School 93.