The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Education

August 2, 2013

ACS questions state-issued grades

ANDERSON — After receiving a ‘D’ grade from the Indiana Department of Education last year, Anderson High School petitioned to have that grade raised to a ‘C’ under then state Superintendent Tony Bennett’s overhaul to the grading system.

Despite data that suggested the school should receive a ‘C’ under that rubric, Anderson High School teacher and eight-step team member Randy Harrison said, the petition was denied.

Anderson Community Schools’ eight-step process uses data from assessments given every three weeks to determine student strengths and weaknesses.

”Infuriating is a pretty mild term” for how Harrison views the news that Bennett, who has resigned from his post as Florida’s education commissioner, worked to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s Indianapolis-based charter school, Christel House, received an ‘A’ rather than a ‘C’ with poor test scores.

DeHaan has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett.

While other schools did see their grades change under the revisions, emails exchanged between Bennett and staff show an intense focus on Christel House’s grade.

Each school should be held accountable for its performance, Harrison said, but with Christel House receiving its ‘A’ while other schools were denied under the same criteria, it’s the integrity of the system used while Bennett was chief that’s now in question.

And the A-F model, used to help determine how much state funding schools receive, just isn’t the right one to use, he added. He said a school could see a majority of its students pass state exams, but with subgroups doing poorly, receive a lower grade.

Harrison added that many educators testified against the model in the Statehouse, but that Bennett wasn’t even in attendance to hear them speak.

In light of the circumstances, ACS Superintendent Felix Chow said he believes school grades like Anderson High’s should be revisited.

The problem, he said, lies in the consistency of the state’s grading system.

Like Dani Palmer on Facebook and follow her @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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