Fort Wayne Community Schools boards public rebuke of Indianas A-F school grades might be the push needed to steer the state away from a punitive and useless system of labeling and toward a more substantive discussion of school improvement.
The General Assembly ordered the State Board of Education to rewrite the flawed formula even before a string of emails revealed former state Superintendent Tony Bennett and his staff manipulated it to favor a charter school operated by a multi-millionaire donor.
Since Bennetts grade-change scheme came to light, however, Gov. Mike Pence and legislative leaders have insisted that the letter grades continue.
Its extremely important that our A-to-F system be preserved and also that the people of Indiana have confidence in that system, Pence said last month.
What the governor and others dont explain is why its extremely important to preserve the system.
Michael Pettibone, who retired as superintendent of Adams Central Community Schools last month, was one of just two State Board of Education members to vote against the A-F system Bennett proposed in early 2012. Pettibone questioned why the formula didnt offer the transparency promised and why it appeared to be punitive. His call for carefully developed measurements on which to base the letter grades was ignored, Pettibone recalled Tuesday.
The systems validity came into real question for the former Adams Central superintendent when the high school and elementary school in his district earned As, but the middle school earned a B. Yet the middle school earned distinction as a Four-Star School, the states highest honor for top-performing schools.
If the formula cant get it right for three schools within the same district, how can it be expected to apply grades objectively to vastly different schools? How can it factor in differences between a university lab school serving the children of faculty and a school where some students might live in a shelter?
The challenge the FWCS board threw down is for lawmakers to rethink the destructive practice of letter grades. Its resolution already has caught the attention of another major school district. Michelle Engel, president of the South Bend Community Schools board, requested a copy from FWCS board president Mark GiaQuinta on Tuesday.
I am definitely interested and am meeting with two board members now, Engel wrote in an email. We are leaning toward putting it on our next agenda.
More school boards should step up. Only when those closest to the problems created speak up will the governor and legislators realize the foolish course theyve taken.
In 2010, this page cautioned the state to resist using letter grades for purposes of rewarding and punishing adults instead of helping students learn. Have Indiana students benefited from having their schools labeled? If legislators cant offer evidence they have, its time to follow FWCS lead in dropping a worthless A-F system.