Should Schools Be Held Accountable For A Student's Life After High School?

Feb 13, 2019

School accountability in Indiana could focus, in part, on what students do after high school under a plan in the House, as lawmakers seek to align the state’s school accountability system with new graduation pathways.

The Indiana State Board of Education approved new graduation pathways in 2017. The pathways stress the importance of schools preparing students for life after high school whether they go to college or jump straight into the workforce.

Now a bill moving through the House says as the state board crafts new school accountability rules, members should focus on metrics to reflect the new pathways.

The legislation doesn’t specify what those should look like exactly, but limits high school accountability to include metrics highlighting how schools keep students on track to graduate on time, how prepared students are for life after high school, and “postsecondary outcomes,” or what they end up doing after graduation.

Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero), who authored the bill, says it offers guidelines for the state board to work within, and would make the system more meaningful for Hoosiers.

“We’ve gotten feedback from principals and superintendents that they’re interested in that data because it drives a lot of their curriculum choices,” he says. 

Cook says those metrics could include how many students in a school enroll in college, complete a certification for a high demand job, or enlist in the military. He says the board should also consider using graduation rates, but the legislation doesn’t require the board to include those specifically.

Several groups that represent school officials met with Cook to discuss the bill after an initial hearing last week. They say they do want to know more about student outcomes, but Tim McRoberts from the association of school principals says being graded on it, worries some.

“The whole accountability part hanging over their heads is concerning for them,” he says. 

Cook also included language in the bill to require that the board consider how adverse life experiences could impact a student’s post-high school plans.

The state board has already started to look at changing the state’s school grading system, and will ultimately decide what metrics Indiana should use to evaluate schools.

Meanwhile, the federal system still relies on test scores and graduation rates. So if the bill passes, schools will keep getting two ratings: one from the state and one from the feds.

The House education committee approved the bill 9 to 4 Wednesday.