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Indiana eyes benchmarks for underperforming schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After more than five years, benchmarks are coming to Indiana’s most underperforming schools.

“The goal of the system is to create a uniformed model to inform the board’s monitoring and evaluation of turnaround performance,” said Ron Sandlin, senior director of performance and transformation for Indiana State Board of Education. “Right now, we’re operating without that.”

Soon, schools labeled as turnaround academies will have performance agreements. Schools received this title after receiving four consecutive years of failing grades.

Eight are in Indianapolis and three others are in Evansville. It’s a program the state started six years ago, which is why we asked state leaders why they’re just now adding the benchmark component.

“That’s a great question,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said. “I’ve been in office for 206 days but I will tell you I think the communication has improved as far as our efforts from the department and the responsibilities that fall with the State Board of Education.”

On Wednesday, the State Board of Education heard what the benchmarks could be. The goal is to make them five-year achievements.

By Year Two, turnaround academies could have to need to improve to a letter grade of D. During the final two years, the school could move to a C. In addition to that, schools would have to improve attendance and graduation numbers.

“If the goals aren’t met, that triggers to us, though, additional support. Maybe we need to revamp, and try different methods, or different programs, but, you know, we’ve got to give it time to see if the results are actually working,” McCormick said.

Statistics, McCormick said, aren’t just to help the state board.

“Informing parents and letting them make educated decisions, that’s going to be critical,” McCormick said. “So that they can make decisions on do we stay, or do we go find another option.”

Each turnaround academy will have until next month to finalize their benchmarks. The state board of education will adopt the agreements in October.

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