News 8 focused on Marion County schools. The only district to achieve "exemplary" status is Pike Township. It's neighbor to the east, Washington Township only received the middle ranking of academic progress. But about 73 percent of Pike's students passed ISTEP. Nearly 78 percent of Washington Township's students did. Over two years, Pike students improved by 3 percent, Washington Township's students by 1.5 percent.
Is it fair that Pike gets top ranking and Washington Township essentially gets a "C"? Washington Township Superintendent James Mervilde hadn't noticed the disparity until News 8 pointed it out.
"We believe in data. There's only one thing worse than having no data and that's having bad data," said Dr. Mervilde.
We asked the Department of Education's administrator over the new system to explain the difference.
"I would say Pike is getting credit for showing more improvement," Jeff Zaring said.
But is Washington being penalized for not showing that much?
Washington Township is being categorized differently because it didn't show as much improvement. We're going to have to look at the numbers and see and maybe adjust those categories," said Zaring.
State School Superintendent Suellen Reed admits new figuring may be in order.
"This is just Marion County. We've got to look all over the state and see where else this kind of discrepancy has occurred," said Dr. Suellen Reed, State School Superintendent. "But your point is great and that's the kind of thing, I mean our phone's going to be ringing off the wall."
Reed's phone should be ringing off the hook. What an absurd way to rate our state's schools. The new system rates the schools by assigning them one of the following five categories: exemplary progress, commendable progress, academic progress, academic watch and academic probation. According to an AP report, 70% of the state's public high schools are rated in the lower categories of academic probation or acedemic watch. "I think there's both good news and alarming news in this," Reed told the Star. For schools in the worst categories, "this should be a call to get to work.”
Great reporting Leslie Olsen and WISH-TV. It looks like you showed Reed that the real call to get to work is the wake-up call you just sent her with this report.
UPDATE: Today's Star has more on the state's confusing new rating system: "Indiana's new school rating system got high marks from educators Wednesday for fairness but low marks from parents and others who don't understand what it means. That's because a school could be rated as successful by the state and subpar by the federal No Child Left Behind rankings, or the other way around."