A school performance report for Jeffersonville High School, located in southern Indiana’s Greater Clark County Schools district, posted on the school’s website. As of Oct. 15, most Indiana schools are required to post the report cards online. (Screenshot from Jeffersonville High School’s website)
To increase transparency around Indiana students’ education performance, new report cards issued by the state education department are now required to be posted on nearly every Hoosier school’s website.
Beginning Oct. 15, each public and state-accredited non-public school must post online a performance report from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) that shows how its students are doing on academic and other measures.
The report cards replace the state’s previous accountability system in which the state assigned A through F grades to measure a school’s quality.
School grades have been effectively suspended since 2018, when Indiana shifted from ISTEP to a new state standardized test and later grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
State officials maintain that the new school performance reports will provide additional transparency around key data points, like test results, attendance rates and career readiness.
Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said she also hopes the move will help parents, families and communities to better understand what’s happening in their schools.
What’s in the reports
Information included in the performance reports covers the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years and varies by the grade levels served by a school.
For example, reports for elementary schools — which are defined as those serving grades K-8 — will include pass rates for the 3rd grade literacy test, known as IREAD-3, along with pass rates for the statewide ILEARN exam, chronic absenteeism rates, and per-student funding.
High school report cards will also highlight per-student funding, along with average composite SAT scores, as well as graduation and non-waiver graduation rates. Additionally, secondary school performance reports will provide the percentage of students who enrolled in and passed any of the following: an Advanced Placement exam, International Baccalaureate exam, dual credit course, or Cambridge International exam.
All schools are also required to compare their data to those serving similar grade bands. Schools with high rates of students who receive free or reduced lunch additionally provide a comparison of their metrics to schools with a similar population.
Much of the data for the new report cards is already available to the public, though, and was drawn from the Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed (GPS) dashboard, which the state released earlier this year.
State lawmakers required the performance reports earlier this year in House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1591.
Even so, the A-F school grades are still required in the state code. Under the new law, however, the state education department will issue “null” grades for each school for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, as it has since 2018.
Under the new law, IDOE is also charged with providing the Indiana General Assembly with future accountability recommendations that can be used in subsequent years. Those are due to state lawmakers by Dec. 1, 2024.
What the data shows — and what the state is doing
Hundreds of schools across the state already have performance reports embedded on their websites, according to the IDOE. It’s not yet clear whether any schools are not complying with the new requirement.
The performance reports come amid a statewide push to help Hoosier students recover from the academic impacts of the pandemic and ensure new high school graduates are more adequately prepared to enter the workforce.
That includes vigorous efforts to improve literacy among the state’s youngest students, largely through the mandatory adoption of science of reading instruction.
Earlier this year, the state board of education additionally reduced the number of Indiana academic standards and approved a revision of the ILEARN assessment. The goal is to make it easier for teachers to craft individualized lesson plans and allow schools more flexibility in administering the standardized exams.
State leaders are also rethinking efforts to get kids into the classroom every day. New state data released earlier this month showed about 40% of Hoosier students missed 10 or more school days last year, and nearly one in five were “chronically absent,” meaning they missed at least 18 days.
More broadly, Jenner has maintained that Indiana’s prior school accountability measures are outdated and need to be updated.
Many state lawmakers agree, though some GOP leaders, like Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, say the A to F system shouldn’t go away completely, but instead should use different metrics to assess school performance.
Behning and other legislators have recommended, for example, multiple letter grades for different accountability measures.
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