Indiana School Data – Improvements Are Happening!

Here is some interesting and very encouraging Indiana school data; these data were updated in July 2015 to include results from the most recent school year, 2013-2014.  In some cases, comparisons will be made to the school year 2012-2013.  Once this data is covered, we will look at much more interesting data relating school grades to the percentage of free and reduced lunches (meal %). The meal % is a proxy for the level of poverty of the children in that school.

Table 1. Indiana's K-12 School Grades for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (All School Types)

This table shows the distribution of K-12 school grades for the last two school years.
Letter GradeNumber of K-12
Schools With Grade
Number of K-12
Schools With Grade
Change in 1 Year
Total Schools Included20722098

Look at the improvement is school grades in just one year!  There are now 189 more “A” schools than last year.  (In one more year back there were 56 more ‘A’ schools for a total of 245 in two years.) The percentage of ‘D’ and ‘F’ schools dropped from 15% to 10%. Of the 189 new ‘A’ schools, 138 come in the public school sector and 53 in the religious/independent schools.  This is good progress; instituting the significant changes needed to obtain these improved grades takes time. High school students are not suddenly going to rise to new performance heights if they are not well grounded in elementary and middle school topics.

A reader of the Indianapolis Star is often left with the belief that Indiana’s schools are in dire shape and that massive reform isThere are some school districts that are in dire shape, but most Indiana schools are doing reasonably well. needed, particularly in the teacher ranks.  However, the author was pleasantly surprised when these results were compiled.  Overall, things are not close to dire.  As will be seen, there are some school districts that are in dire shape, but most Indiana schools are doing reasonably well.

Most of the school grade improvements were made at the elementary school levels since there are so many more of this type of school. Here though, it will take many years for these better-educated children to work their way through the system to reach high school.

What shall our goal be with respect to this grade distribution? The least aggressive goal would be to eliminate all of the ‘D’ and ‘F’ schools – in this case a total of 217 schools; certainly this goal will be a challenge.

How Do the Different Kinds of Schools Grades Compare?

In this section, we take a look at how traditional public school, charter school, religious school/independent school grades compare. Since the database that is the basis for all of this work contains a  grade and a meal percent for each school, comparisons can be drawn. Using the database, a simple Excel command will make this conversion:

A = 4.0
B = 3.0
C = 2.0
D = 1.0
F = 0

Once a numerical grade is computed, a simple average is calculated for each type of school. Here are those results for the last two school years along side the average meal % for each category of school:

Table 2. Calculation of Average School Grade Point Average by School Type

This table gives the "GPA" by type of school
School TypeAverage "GPA"
Average "GPA"
Average percentage
of free and reduced
Number of Schools Included
Traditional Public2.93.151%1758

It is observed that the charter schools receive a grade point average of a 1.6.  This flies in the face of all of the hype given in the press to the virtues of charter schools. These schools do average 69% free and reduced lunches. As will be seen below, there is a relationship between free and reduced lunch percents but it is growing weaker every year. The topic of the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic accomplishment is a key part of this web site.  However, we will see that there are many exceptions to this relationship. We will show that there are more A, B and C schools in the high poverty ranges than Ds and Fs.  The religious schools do very well but most families must pay a steep tuition bill indicating that they are most likely not struggling financially. What is encouraging is that the traditional public schools are comfortably situated at a 3.1.

Targeting Resources to Reduce the Number of ‘D’ and ‘F’ Schools

The challenge is to elevate the ‘D’ and ‘F’ schools to at least a ‘C’. In this discussion the emphasis will be on where to focus resources, not how. The how discussion will come later as more research is completed.

The logical next step is to identify what kind of schools make up these two grades and where are they located. Below is a breakdown of what level of school (elementary, middle or high school) have the ‘D’ and ‘F’ grades.

Table 3. What Kind of Schools Have the 'D' and 'F' Grades?

This table is a breakdown of the type of school (elementary, middle or high school) that have the lower school grades.
Kind of SchoolCount of SchoolsPercent
High School134%

As can be seen from the table, 283 of the lower-graded schools are elementary schools. This is the logical place to begin since these will be the easiest to change as knowledge accumulation has just begun. Success at this level should pay dividends as the students mature into middle and high schools.

The next question is, “Where are the ‘D’ and ‘F’ schools located in Indiana?” The following table spells this out as it identifies the 9 school districts (plus the state’s charter schools) that represent 55% of all Ds and Fs out of 1,819 of the state’s traditional public and charter schools.

Table 4. The Source of 56% of the Ds and Fs For Indiana Schools - School Yr. 2013-2014

This table gives the 9 school districts that represent 56% of all the 'D's and 'F's.
 School Districts With
High D and F
Total schools -
Traditional Public
and Charter Only
D and F
D & F %
1Charter Schools583459%
2Indianapolis Public Schools653249%
3South Bend Community School Corp.341544%
4Gary Community School Corp.161063%
5Evansville Vanderburgh Sch Corp.35926%
6School City of Hammond20630%
7MSD Warren Township17635%
8Fort Wayne Community Schools49510%
9Community Schools of Frankfort5480%
Total 'D' & 'F' Schools in Indiana 217
Total 'D' & 'F' schools in the above 9 Districts121
Percentage of All 'D' & 'F' Schools in these Nine Districts 56%

This data illustrates that several of the states’ metropolitan districts have some serious issues with respect to low school grades.  Data from last year showed that 10 school districts produced 55% of all of the state’s ‘D’s and ‘F’s – this year 9 districts represent 40% of all lower grades.  Here again is strong evidence of improved school performance.  Another example of how metrics produce improvements; a very common result in industrial settings.

Focusing Resources and Attention

This analysis makes it clear that, in business slang, getting the “bang for the buck” will best be achieved by focusing on elementary schools, especially in the nine school districts that represent 40% of all ‘D’s and ‘F’s in the collection of traditional public and charter schools. As was mentioned earlier, moving an elementary school to a grade of ‘C’ or higher should lead to payoff as the child moves into the upper grades.