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The Indiana State Board of Education continued its discussion of a reworked school accountability system Wednesday with board members bringing suggestions ranging from a new, multi-tiered system to the implementation of individual school dashboard to publicly track and monitor academic progress.

“We have a majority opportunity to build a trusted and transparent system with transparent data for our families, for our educators to use,” new Indiana Education Secretary Katie Jenner said Wednesday.

The discussion follows more than six months of research and feedback collected to overhaul the state’s current system after students’ low performance on the state’s new ILEARN exam showed more than half of Indiana districts would have seen declining A-F accountability grades for the 2018-19 school year.

The accountability system’s emphasis on standardized assessments prompted calls for a new, modernized system more closely aligned with Indiana’s new graduation pathways requirements at the secondary level.

“We need this information in terms of how kids are performing … there’s the question of the system itself, which we’re going to explore over the next few weeks and months, and then there’s the policy that’s attached to it,” Board Secretary Pete Miller said. “The system’s not working as we want it to.”

A 10-page document including stakeholder input and technical response from state board staff was shared in advance of the state board’s Wednesday meeting, it’s first of 2021.

The feedback showed recommendations for more individualized measures of tracking student growth targets, as well as ensuring any new measures adopted translated directly to academic outcomes.

In the meeting, state board member David Freitas asked other members for their consideration of a two-tiered system, allowing high achieving schools to “unleash” themselves from the “hindrance” brought by school accountability requirements, an idea he said has garnered interest from state legislators.

“These districts and schools have proven themselves and the accountability system has become a hindrance to the day-to-day activity of teachers and schools,” Freitas said. “It’s getting in the way of those who know how to provide high performance education.”

Board member Pat Mapes, superintendent of Perry Township Schools in Indianapolis, said though his district would likely fall under a high achieving tier, he didn’t feel the system burdened educators.

“We need to work hard to get better every day and I want an accountability plan in place to make certain we continue to serve students,” Maps said, suggesting a new system should place heightened emphasis on literacy standards at the K-3 level.

Board member Bryon Ernest floated the idea of creating an individualized school dashboard to use technology in tracking schools’ progress in achieving academic outcomes.

“I think it could be so rich for our parents and people to look at,” Ernest said. “That’s not a burden for schools when we talk about a dashboard, that’s information that’s already there and already collected.”

After it’s discussion Wednesday, the board is likely to schedule a work session to further consider items floated in its most recent meeting before initiating the first steps in the board’s rule-making process.

The Wednesday meeting was Jenner's first as education secretary. Board member B.J. Watts read a resolution in recognition of Jennifer McCormick — Indiana’s last publicly elected state superintendent whose term came to an end Monday.

“I want to take the opportunity to sincerely thank Dr. McCormick for her service for the past four years to the state of Indiana, to our educators and to our students,” Jenner said. “I’ll tell ya, I also really appreciate the Department of Education team, including Dr. McCormick, for all of their support during the transition. They were always a call away, and that is very, very appreciated by our team, certainly, as well as I’m sure by our schools, educators and students that we serve.”

Jenner was elected chair of the state board Wednesday. Kathleen Mote, a Project Lead the Way executive, will continue as the board’s vice chair and Miller, of Indiana University Health, will continue as secretary.

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