Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #156 – October 18, 2013

Dear Friends,

When Dr. Bennett changed the A-F system giving Christel House Academy a higher grade, he and his staff consistently changed all the other schools affected by the same alteration. When the review of those changes was completed by the staff of State Superintendent Ritz, it was discovered that while Christel House and other schools had a higher grade, there were four schools that dropped to an F as a result of Dr. Bennett’s adjustments which truncated the data used.

At the October 2nd State Board meeting, Superintendent Ritz presented these findings to the members of the State Board to see if they wanted to give these four schools a break and restore their higher grade that using all of the data available would entitle them to.

The State Board said no. By a vote of 9-1, the State Board confirmed the F grade given to them as a result of Dr. Bennett’s last minute alterations in the A-F system.

While Christel House Academy and several others gained higher grades in Dr. Bennett’s changes, four schools are still lamenting the changes and will now have to live with the F they received last October after Dr. Bennett’s last minute adjustments.

A-F Decisions of the State Board

Superintendent Ritz presented several questions to the State Board on October 2nd regarding the A-F system, telling them that since she was not part of the decision to use this system or to alter it, she would abstain from the voting while the State Board in effect adjudicated the “clean up” questions.

The first question had to do with the grade of three high schools that benefited from a higher grade by Dr. Bennett’s last minute changes. When the caps on each subject were eliminated, a move which helped Christel House gain a grade, three high schools moved from B to A. The problem is that the written rules for high schools specify that caps were not to be eliminated. When Superintendent Ritz gave the State Board members the opportunity to follow the written rule and to restore the lower grade, they voted 10-0 to leave the A grade in place for Northview, Rossville and Speedway High Schools.

The feeling of generosity to lift school grades seen in this vote was abandoned in the second vote. Superintendent Ritz presented the case of four schools that received an F after Dr. Bennett’s 2012 policy decision to consider all schools with unusual grade configurations as Elementary/Middle Schools. Before the changes, they were not rated as F. These four were:
  • Hammond Academy of Science and Technology
  • Damar Charter Academy
  • Career Academy at South Bend
  • Cornerstone College Prep School
Dr. Bennett’s policy decision to grade schools with unusual grade combinations as Elementary/Middle Schools helped Christel House and several other schools, but it demoted these four. When given the chance to correct this problem by applying full data to the formula and thereby erasing the F for these four schools, the State Board said no.

Board Member Andrea Neal said this grade was already superseded by a new grade and we shouldn’t go back. Board Member Tony Walker corrected Board member Neal, saying accurately that this grade had not been superseded by a new grade. He expressed concern that the grade of F would be damaging to the schools. He endorsed using all the data available about each school, which would give the Hammond school a D and the other three would be given “No Grade” because they were new schools. He wanted to give the four schools the higher grade that they would have received had Dr. Bennett not intervened to make last minute changes.

Unfortunately for these four schools, he was the only one. The State Board voted 9-1 to confirm the F grades for these schools.


Dr. Bennett and his staff in October of 2012 eliminated subject matter caps in the formula and treated schools with unusual grade configurations as simply Elementary/Middle Schools. These two policy steps helped Christel House Academy move from a C to an A, but now we know that treating combined schools as Elementary schools demoted four schools to an F which they did not earn initially. Only one member of the State Board thought that the collateral damage to these schools created by Dr. Bennett’s last minute changes should be corrected.

Four schools were harmed by the complex last minute adjustments made last October. The State Board has now voted to ignore the injustice done to these four schools.

The flaws of Dr. Bennett’s A-F system live on.

Hear an Update on the New A-F System on October 19th

Kristin Reed, Policy and Research Coordinator for the Indiana Department of Education, will be the featured speaker at the Indiana Coalition for Public Education fall membership meeting in Bloomington tomorrow, Saturday, October 19th at 2:00pm. She has been monitoring the A-F panel meetings and will provide an update on this issue and other key issues: voucher implementation, the settlement with CTB McGraw Hill on ISTEP+ testing and many others. Please join us in this meeting for all ICPE members and prospective members at the Bloomington City Hall, City Council Chambers, 401 N. Morton, Bloomington, from 2:00 to 3:30pm.

Although no RSVP is necessary, if you can come on Saturday, replying to this message would help us with the count.
Please join us on Saturday to help support public education in Indiana!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. We hope all members and prospective members will come to the membership meetings this fall, the last of which is Saturday, October 19th, 2-3:30pm at the Bloomington City Hall, City Council Chambers, 401 N. Morton, Bloomington. Kristin Reed is the featured speaker. At the meeting you can renew your membership for the 2013-14 membership year which began July 1st if you have not done so already.

To all who have recently renewed or supported our fundraiser in Bloomington, we say thank you! We need additional support to carry on our advocacy for public education. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on our three ICPE membership meetings this fall. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.

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