It’s only been a couple of years since the uproar over Indiana’s school accountability measures. To be sure, there were a lot of reasons for the pushback from educators and eventual legislation invalidating the current system. But one of the leading reasons was the decision to base “student growth” measures on comparisons of students to other students with similar starting points rather than measuring their progress toward the state’s academic standards.
But a year after legislative leaders, the Governor and the state superintendent convened a panel to construct a new accountability system, nothing has changed and the majority of the panel is set to recommend the same approach that is already in place – the same “growth” measure that has already been forbidden by the state Legislature.
How could this happen? Well, there are lots of factors.
Most importantly, the staff of the Department of Education and the Governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation have simply worn out the panel. After 11 all-day meetings, committee members have been given none of the data that has been requested (and promised at the first meeting) to help develop alternatives; and the staffs have provided no outside experts other than people who developed Indiana’s current accountability model.
The staffs have also played games with terminology, suggesting most recently that they have accomplished the law’s focus on “criterion standards” because their peer-based growth measures create a new target performance level.
But the law doesn’t call for that. Rather, it is quite a bit simpler – as stated in the 2013 legislation:
“The new standards of assessing school performance: (1) must be based on a measurement of individual student academic performance and growth to proficiency; and (2) may not be based on a measurement of student performance or growth compared with peers.”
The final proposal must still be reviewed by the Legislature and approved by the State Board of Education. But if passed as currently drafted, it’s hard to imagine how a school that’s unhappy with its grade wouldn’t have solid standing for challenging it.
The state superintendent has been an outspoken opponent of school accountability, generally, and Indiana’s accountability system, specifically. But why the Governor’s staff would support this re-adoption of a failed and outlawed accountability system is baffling.