INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis school board members awarded Superintendent Lewis Ferebee a massive $26,999 bonus on Thursday, the same day the public learned student test scores fell by 3.7 percent last year.
School board members noted that Ferebee’s performance bonus was only 77.1 percent of a possible $35,000 boost that’s based on improving learning in the school district, Chalkbeat.org reports.
“The 10 goals include redesigning and expanding district magnet schools based on demand and student results, creating autonomous schools and improving student graduation rates and IREAD scores, according to the news site.
In February, the IPS board increased Ferebee’s total compensation to more than $287,000 a year, including a base pay of $209,880.
IPS students fell behind at a faster pace than students statewide in recent standardized math and reading tests released by state officials on Thursday. On average, 3-8th grade students lost 2.1 percentage points in those subjects, while IPS student scores decreased by 3.7 percent.
Ferebee, of course, contends that the data is flawed, and is encouraging parents and concerned citizens to ignore the results, as well as A through F grades that have not yet been released, CBS Indy reports.
“Educators are frustrated,” he said. “The data we received today, we don’t believe is an accurate measure of the progress in our schools.”
Hundreds of superintendents in the state have also complained that the test scores are inaccurate, and are pushing back in letters to state officials.
“We will not use this to beat on our teachers and our principals,” Ferebee told Chalkbeat. “We are going to be smart about how we measure progress, and we are not going to knee jerk to results that we don’t have a lot of confidence in.”
In Indianapolis, school board president Mary Ann Sullivan defended Ferebee’s five-figure performance bonus. Change takes time, she said, though IPS has struggled with student performance for decades.
“The strategies that we are engaged in as a district are long-term strategies, and we don’t expect quick fixes,” she said.
Others, like Concerned Clergy President David Greene, believe district should engage more parents and community members in its mission to improve schools, instead of making excuses for years of poor performance.
“If we are not seeing student achievement … we have a problem,” he said. “We don’t need to mask that problem. We need to be upfront and honest and everybody needs to work on it.”
Meanwhile, state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who lost re-election in November despite strong backing from the Indiana State Teachers Association, is using frustration over student test results to push to eliminate the current student assessments.
“Today’s results reflect Indiana’s focus on student progress towards more rigorous benchmarks for college and career readiness. However, it is important to remember that our students, schools and teachers are more than just a test score,” Ritz said, according to CBS Indy.
“I have spent the past four years working to get rid of inefficient and costly tests like ISTEP+. Indiana had finally taken the first steps to making that positive change for students but we need to go further.”
A state panel is currently reviewing recommended changes to improve student assessments in the Hoosier state but have not come to a consensus on a new system, according to the news site.