. . . According to the report from William Sheldrake and John Grew — a bipartisan pair of well-respected, former budget and policy officials — the Indiana Department of Education “under-estimated administrative and technical challenges associated with developing the new administrative rule, computer programming and testing necessary to implement the new rule, and obtaining feedback” on the new system.
That’s not a surprise. Educators and administrators had been complaining prior to last year’s release of A-F grades that the system wouldn’t accurately reflect the work going on at their schools. At the time, that might have seemed like excuses meant to distract from poor performance. But it turns out, those school leaders probably had a point.
The report — which was requested by Republican legislative leaders — said Bennett’s administration “did not contemplate” all the various ways that schools were organized and therefore was left to make last-minute changes in the grading formulas, some just days before the ratings were released to the public. . .
In the report released last week, Sheldrake and Grew found that the A-F formula changes made by Bennett’s staff were applied fairly to all similarly situated schools. And they said the “adjustments administered to determine Christel House Academy’s final grade were plausible.” Some Republicans rushed to say the report exonerated Bennett.
But again, not so fast. The report also said that “a significant portion of the educational community did not understand or trust in the accuracy or fairness” of the A-F formulas. That’s a problem — and it goes back to the earlier premise that education changes are being implemented so quickly that they are not adequately tested first.
Grew and Sheldrake said that needs to change.
Already, lawmakers have ordered the Board of Education to make changes in the A-F system by putting more emphasis on the growth in student achievement, rather than in raw standardized test scores. And legislative leaders — along with Ritz and Republican Gov. Mike Pence — have appointed a committee to make recommendations for changes to the state board.
But Grew and Sheldrake urged state officials not to get into a big hurry.
“Because of the complexity involved in implementing any new accountability system, the system should be piloted prior to implementation, if possible, permitting IDOE to solicit and receive extensive feedback from schools, adequately perform programming tests, and evaluate policy components incorporated into the system,” the report said . . .