Chesterton Tribune


State school grades slanted, local educators say

Back to Front Page





Duneland Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett said the state’s new growth model in the state’s grades for public schools this year do not paint an accurate picture of student performance in the Duneland Schools.

The Department of Education released the results yesterday morning for public, private and charter schools in Indiana based on better scores in this year’s standardized ISTEP testing, most of which either saw an A or B grade.

In Duneland, Chesterton High School, Jackson Elementary, and Westchester Intermediate received A grades. Liberty Intermediate and Bailly Elementary received B’s. Brummitt Elementary, Liberty Elementary, and Yost Elementary received C’s. Earning a D grade was Chesterton Middle School, which in 2011 saw an A grade.

Moffett said school officials are not happy about the outcomes but believe the new way the state grades schools is “slanted and not appropriate.”

While he agrees that measuring improvement is a good concept, Moffett said the model shows student scores on testing and how they fell compared with other students around the state but gives no further indication to how the state came up with those results or criteria on how schools can help the students improve their performance.

“This metric is the least transparent thing I’ve ever dealt with in my time as an educator,” said Moffett.

Even if students score a grade of 90 percent or more, the school and the teachers still are penalized if the student maintained the same score as last year because it does not show improvement.

That was the case with Liberty Intermediate where math scores from the ISTEP were above 92 percent in grades 5 and 6 and nearly 90 percent in fifth grade Language Arts and more than 84 percent in sixth grade English. Moffett said if just three more students had scored two points higher, LIS would have possibly maintained its A grade from last year, but because there was not enough improvement, the state lowered the school’s grade to a B.

Moffett said the school corporation attempted to appeal the B grade based on the Language portion but the appeal was not accepted by the state.

In the case of Chesterton Middle School, which was the only school in the county to receive a grade lower than a C, the students received a C-plus in Language Arts and B-minus in Math which would have put them at an overall C grade from the state, supposedly, but because the bar was set high last year with an A grade the school got penalized twofold in the growth model, Moffett said. If six students had scored higher on the Language portion, the school would have been given a C.

What makes the model even more slanted, Moffett said, is that students who improve have to make it within a certain percentile in order to be counted. Giving an example, if a student scored 92 percent last year and scored 94 percent this year the improvement is not counted if 50 percent of students who also scored a 92 last year in the same demographic did better.

Moffett added that the grades given to the elementary schools do not reflect the whole school but only the fourth grade class. The growth model only assesses grades 4 or higher because the earliest the ISTEP is taken is at third grade.

Another point Moffett made is that Duneland saw improvement in a handful of special education students who went from taking the Indiana Modified Achievements Standards Test (IMAST), which measures Language and Math skills for students with disabilities, to taking the ISTEP. But the state’s new metric won’t take those students’ improvement into account since the ISTEP and the IMAST are two different assessments, Moffett said.

Moffett said the metric is also slanted in the fact that it only has a five point range for A and B grades but a 10-point range for grades C or lower.

But one positive to come out of this is that the schools are poised to do better next year since there is now plenty of room for improvement to take place. He added that even though Duneland’s ISTEP scores were disappointing, they were still above the state average.

As mentioned at the school board meeting in August, the corporation is regrouping to come up with strategies by holding meetings with teachers and deciding what their needs are. School officials also cited that shifting to national Common Core standards and less emphasis on standards advocated by the state was part of the problem.

The trick is for the corporation to draw as much as they can from the bare bones data and make conjectures on how to help each student so he or she can increase their ISTEP scores next year.

“Like a lot of schools around the state, we’re still trying to figure out how this all works,” said Moffett.

Duneland School Board Vice-president Mike Trout said he doesn’t disagree that the schools have to be held accountable for the grades they receive. He said he hopes the state will revise the metric so that high performing school systems like Duneland are not penalized. In the meantime, Duneland will strive to improve for next year, Trout said. “We’ve got to work within our parameters.”

Other Schools

Meanwhile, the state also released figures for charter and private schools. Locally, St. Patrick’s School in Chesterton received an A rating, the same as it received last year. Discovery Charter School was also given an A which is up from the B ranking it received in 2011.


Posted 11/1/2012