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Media Contacts

Jonathan Plucker
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Indiana K-12 rankings: An Indiana University expert

EDITORS: The Indiana State Board of Education will review and possibly adopt during its meeting today (Monday, June 19) a list that places all public schools in School Performance and Improvement Categories. The rankings, called for in P.L.-221 education reform legislation passed in 1999, are the last primary component of Indiana's school reform efforts to be implemented. Jonathan Plucker, director of Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, can address the rankings and discuss whether Indiana's school reform efforts and the federal No Child Left Behind initiative can co-exist. Plucker can be reached at 812-855-8535 and

Compared to the federal No Child Left Behind reform efforts, Indiana's plan has received more support from Indiana educators, largely because it factors in improvement, not just test-score performance from one school year. The state plan cannot be as effective as intended, however, until is it fully funded, said Jonathan Plucker, director of Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. The reform legislation called for two critical areas that have yet to be funded. Schools were supposed to be able to vie for Student Educational Achievement Grants when they demonstrated high performance. The grants were seen as a financial incentive for schools to perform well. Funding for technical assistance, a component geared toward helping struggling schools improve, also has not been provided. "Placement of all schools in the P.L. 221 School Performance and Improvement Categories is an import threshold for the state in its efforts to fully implement the standards, assessment and accountability reform it embarked on in 1999," Plucker said. "However, to continue the momentum moving forward, administrators and teachers must be reflective of their school improvement plans and instructional strategies, and the state must fully fund the performance awards and technical assistance systems."

Background: CEEP offered the following comparison between No Child Left Behind and Indiana Public Law 221 in a 2005 policy brief updating the implementation of NCLB, Many similarities exist, according to the brief. Both laws, for example, have adopted many of the same goals, including high academic standards, standardized assessment using tests aligned with the standards, accountability for achievement, data-driven decision making, and focusing on the needs of all children. Both laws also set forth criteria for highly qualified teachers, school safety measures, school report cards and a comprehensive data system. The differences are significant:

  • No Child Left Behind requires schools to address English proficiency while Indiana's accountability law is silent on this.
  • No Child Left Behind requires students to be tested for academic standards in English and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school, while Indiana tests grades 3-10.
  • Indiana requires that students be tested in social studies while NCLB does not, though this subject is not yet a component of Indiana's assessment program because of funding shortfalls.
  • P.L. 221 encourages schools to use end-of-course testing at the high school level, while NCLB does not.
  • Students in early grades are assessed using diagnostic reading tests, which is encouraged by P.L. 221 but not by NCLB.
  • The accountability system in Indiana factors in growth or improvements in assessment scores over a two-year period initially, and three years ultimately, not just overall performance in one year measured against a standard, which is the central focus of the federal accountability system.
  • Consequences for low student achievement and school performance apply to all of the nearly 2,000 public schools under the P.L. 221 accountability system; whereas the corrective measures under No Child Left Behind apply to only Title I schools.

CEEP, a non-partisan education policy research center, promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and education policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations. Center projects address state and national education questions. CEEP is part of the IU School of Education. To learn more about CEEP, go to

Plucker can be reached at 812-855-8535 and