Indiana rethinks A-F school grades

Indiana lawmakers want education officials to rewrite the A-F grading system for schools to reflect both students’ passing rate and progress — without comparing students to each other, reports StateImpact Indiana.

Critics say the system is too complex. (Indiana’s system is the most rudimentary scoring system I’ve seen yet, writes Matthew DiCarlo on Shanker Blog.) Others say Indiana needs to use value-added data — which is quite complex — to factor out poverty effects.

Eight AP Statistics students at an Indianapolis high school came up with their own A-F rewrite for the high school model, which they presented to three state lawmakers, a representative of the state superintendent and school officials.

Currently, 60 percent of a high school grade comes the percentage of 10th graders who’ve passed end-of -course exams in Algebra I and English 10, with another 30 percent derived from the four-year graduation rate. That leaves 10 percent for a “College and Career Readiness” measure: 25 percent or more of students must earn passing scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests, earn three or more college credits or earn a career certification.

The Ben Davis High School students suggested decreasing the importance of the end-of-course exam pass rate, which correlate strongly with graduation rates. They’d make the readiness metric 30 percent of the school’s grade and include a measure of students’ improvement in high school. They also want to adjust the grades for students’ poverty — somehow.

House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, suggested looking at the percentage of graduates who need remedial courses in college.

Catching up to the world? Not so much

Despite gains in reading, math and science, U.S. students remain in the middle of the international pack, concludes a Harvard analysis in Education Next.

From 1995 to 2009, the U.S. ranked 25th out of 49 nations in fourth- and eighth-grade test score gains in math, reading, and science. In the fastest improving countries, Latvia, Chile, and Brazil, students are improving at nearly three times the U.S. rate. Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuania are improving at twice the rate of U.S. students.

Over the 14-year period, U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders raised their NAEP scores by nearly “the equivalent of one additional year’s worth of learning.”

Yet when compared to gains made by students in other countries, progress within the United States is middling, not stellar. While 24 countries trail the U.S. rate of improvement, another 24 countries appear to be improving at a faster rate. Nor is U.S. progress sufficiently rapid to allow it to catch up with the leaders of the industrialized world.

Within the U.S., Maryland, Florida, Delaware, and Massachusetts improved at two to three times the rate of Iowa, Maine, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

A fraction of the U.S. gains can be attributed to “catch-up” theory:  Low achievers have more room for improvement. Spending more on education had little effect.
. . . on average, an additional $1000 in per-pupil spending is associated with an annual gain in achievement of one-tenth of 1 percent of a standard deviation. But that trivial amount is of no statistical or substantive significance. Overall, the 0.12 correlation between new expenditure and test-score gain is just barely positive.

The gains in elementary and middle school fade by high school, the authors write. U.S. 17-year-olds have shown “only minimal gains” over the past two decades

Do it now

Colleges’ strategic plans usually set lofty goals to be accomplished (or not) far in the future. A community college in New York is setting a series of improvement goals to be accomplished in 100 days.