FWCS Abandons Bennett's A-F Grading System (VIDEOS)

By Rachel Martin - 21Alive
By Eric Dutkiewicz - 21Alive

August 12, 2013 Updated Aug 13, 2013 at 6:19 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) - Fort Wayne Community Schools will no longer use a statewide A-F performance system to determine schools' achievement.

The school board approved a resolution Monday night that "will no longer give public recognition to its schools based solely upon the letter grade assigned to a school under the Bennett A-F System."

"The Bennett A-F System has been determined to have been corrupted." Mark GiaQuinta, FWCS board president, says. "It is not a legitimate method by which to assess excellence in our classrooms."

The vote was 6-1. Lisa Olinger voted against the resolution.

The board's resolution says other criteria should be used to determine a school's performance, including: closing of achievement gaps between groups of students, overall improvement of student body, skill and experience of school leaders, attendance rates, extracurricular activities and disciplinary statistics.

Bennett's A-F System uses A through F letter grades to assess the performance of schools based primarily on ISTEP scores. The A-F System has been controversial since it was implemented in 2011, and contributed to the Republican Bennett's election loss to Democrat Glenda Ritz in November 2012. Bennett would later be appointed as Florida Education Commissioner.

In July, The Associated Press obtained internal emails from Indiana Department of Education that indicate Bennett changed the grading formula to benefit an Indianapolis charter school run by a Republican donor. During the course of the investigation, Bennett resigned his Florida post.

"We simply have no faith in this A-F System, because it's been shown to reward schools that certain individuals wanted to have rewarded. And it's really worked to the detriment of districts like ours."

With the decision to no longer utilize the Bennett A-F System, the FWCS board recommends the district revert to the Balanced Scorecard as primary assessment for schools.

"The strength and quality of school instruction should never be judged on the basis of a single test," the resolution reads.

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., has voiced his support for the A-F assessment, but called for the Indiana Department of Education to evaluate the system amid the scandal.

Ritz says a preliminary investigation finds "manipulation" of the A-F grading system. She also has asked the General Assembly to create a new A-F system to be used starting with the 2014-15 school year.

State Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and State Sen. President Pro Temp David Long, R-Fort Wayne, have called for independent review of the A-F system.

Additionally, the school board urges other Indiana districts to abandon the state's A-F system and develop their own criteria for assessment.

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