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November 1, 2012

New grading system for Indiana schools results in mixed marks

INDIANAPOLIS — The state Department of Education released its controversial A through F letter grades Wednesday for more than 2,000 Indiana schools.

More than 60 percent of the elementary, middle and high schools in Indiana schools received an A or B grade, while nearly 19 percent earned D or F grades. Just more than 20 percent of schools earned the C grade.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who is up for re-election Tuesday, hailed the new grading system as a more accurate measure of how schools are performing than the measurements of the past. But he also conceded that the new system has “some complexity” that will make it difficult for parents, students, teachers and others to understand how the grades were reached.

At a meeting of the State Board of Education Wednesday, Bennett likened the grades to the safety rating system given to cars.

“You understand the rating but not everything that goes into it,” Bennett said.

Release of the grades, which are posted on the DOE’s website (doe.in.gov) was approved by the board at its meeting Wednesday. The state board had approved the new grading system earlier this year, over widespread opposition that included schools, community groups and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Bennett’s opponent in the race for state superintendent, Indianapolis teacher Glenda Ritz, has been sharply critical of the new school grading system which has been pushed by Bennett, saying it’s based on a complicated formula that uses flawed data to assess student success. Ritz, a Democrat, said schools with poor grades will be unfairly labeled and communities will be harmed.

“My vision does not paint communities as failures when students attending their schools are struggling,” said Ritz in a press release Wednesday, outlining her differences with the Republican Bennett. “Under A-F, Tony Bennett is saying to new businesses and homebuyers, ‘Stay away from this community – it is failing.’”

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