As high performing school district proposal progresses, CCS looks to clarify metrics for qualification


According to Superintendent Jeff Swensson, as Carmel Clay School’s high performing school district proposal continues to progress in a larger bill authored by state Senator Mike Delph, the district now looks to make the metrics that would determine a high performing school district more clear.  Swensson said recent moves by the state Department of Education look to include teachers and school performance as a part of the qualifying process for the status; however, Swensson said the district would prefer the designation be based solely on “student achievement.”

“Some of the metrics don’t focus on student achievement, so you say, ‘Well, how do we mark a high performing school district?’ Well, students do it,” Swensson said.  “What we’re going to be doing is chat with some of the leading lights in the Department of Education in an effort to not only talk with them about the concept, which we’ve been doing all along, but then, more importantly, talk about, let’s think about, the Department of Education doesn’t have to do lots of work on this. And if we simply include metrics that measure student achievement, which we already know what those are, they don’t have to create any other metrics like for proficiency of teachers or proficiencies of schools, or there are a couple of general categories in there.”

Swensson said he and superintendents from Hamilton Southeastern, Zionsville and West Lafayette school districts plan to go to the statehouse and speak with state education officials on the idea.

“And I’m not saying the DOE doesn’t have some knowledge about (teacher and school proficiency metrics) because they may, but in point of fact, those terms aren’t used currently nor do we measure such things,” Swensson said.  “It would be this conglomerate that I’m not sure what it would be.”

One additional caveat to the bill proposed by Delph goes back to a previous proposal of his that included a later start date for school districts.  The effect it would have would include a reduction in the number of weeks students would be able to prepare for AP exams that have fixed national test days, senior Ray Qian said. Qian, one of the state’s AP Scholars and a veteran of 15 AP tests said he believes the overall concept of high performing school districts is positive in the sense that students would have more freedom to explore different avenues more independently than with a set curriculum.

“I believe it’s certainly a skill that you need to develop at some point in life,” Qian said. “Eventually, you won’t have a teacher to babysit you through everything that you need to know, so I’d say it’s definitely important to be able to learn on your own.”

Despite Qian’s statement that there would be a decrease in the number of weeks to prepare for the spring AP exams, Swensson said there does appear to be some sort of leeway in terms of adopting a later start date.

Regardless of both potential differences in state metrics and a later start date, Swensson said the district would accept those terms in order to further the concept of high performing schools.

“We’ll take it,” Swensson said, “in a heartbeat.”