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October 25, 2012

News and Tribune letters: Oct. 25, 2012

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Duo say Bennett’s grading system gets an F

Tony Bennett’s plan to give letter grades to schools has turned into a fiasco. Last January, all 35 speakers in the only public hearing on his plan opposed it, including representatives of all education groups and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Bennett did not attend the hearing. Nevertheless, he pushed the plan through in February without any of the recommended changes, despite information from his own department that the plan would result in 22 percent D’s and F’s for Indiana schools. In comparison, Florida last year gave D’s and F’s to 6 percent of its schools. Indiana schools are not more than three times worse than Florida schools.

This fact is certifiably grounded in data from the National Assessment, which is a test taken in common by all states and is known as “the nation’s report card.” On the National Assessment, Indiana consistently outscores Florida in fourth and eighth grade math and in eighth grade reading, and Indiana consistently scores higher than the national average.

Tony Bennett’s A-F system has demeaned the performance of Indiana’s schools compared to Florida. Conveniently, low grades would feed more schools into his pipeline for state intervention, which in Indianapolis and Gary has resulted in for-profit corporations taking over schools, accompanied by discord, litigation and fragmented communities.

Mayors have complained that unfairly low school grades damage local economic development efforts to attract new jobs. The calibration of this A-F system is simply wrong. It will hurt our schools and our economy.

This fall implementation has seen major delays, the director of the program took another job in the midst of the roll out, and local school officials say they can’t get answers to their questions about the flawed growth statistics. We need a change.

We support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction who stands for a revised system of grading our schools.

— Dr. Vic Smith, Indianapolis, and Erin Braune, Jeffersonville

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