Index created to judge public education quality

Associated Press


 SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s Education Department wants to change how it evaluates the quality of the state’s public schools.

The 100-point school performance index was created by in-state work groups in 2011 to take the place of No Child Left Behind’s accountability system, after the state received a waiver from the requirements of the federal school improvement law by coming up with its own acceptable alternative standards. The state plan is due to be fully implemented next school year after a two-year phase-in period.

State officials want to scrap two categories — school climate, and effectiveness of teachers and principals — saying they are too subjective, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.

Eliminating the surveys would enable school officials to be honest about their problems without fear of lowering their index score, said Abby Javurek-Humig, director of assessment and accountability for the Education Department.

“We know high-quality climate analysis is only effective if people feel like they can be honest about it,” she told the state Board of Education on Monday. “This gives schools a little bit more breathing room, a little bit more flexibility to be honest about what’s going on, and use the results to drive improvement at the school level, instead of feeling like I have to tell you everything good and wonderful, even if I have a couple of areas I need to work on.”

The original plan called for educators to be evaluated based on a statewide system, and those who achieved distinguished or proficient grades would boost their school’s score. However, voters last year rejected a wide-ranging school reform package passed by the Legislature, meaning schools would be free to evaluate their teachers and principals however they liked, with the state only recommending the process.

The Board of Education will act on the proposed changes later. A rough draft is expected to be available for public comment this winter.

If the changes are approved, the state’s performance evaluation formula would be left with mostly hard data such as student math and reading scores, elementary and middle school attendance and high school completion rates.

Not everyone is in favor of the proposed changes. Roger Bordeaux, superintendent of Todd County Schools, said school climate and educator effectiveness would help his schools’ scores. The schools are in one of the nation’s poorest counties and have scored among the worst in the state since the index