South Bend School Board denounces Indiana's school grading system

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The South Bend School Board is protesting the state’s school grading system.

On Monday night, they voted unanimously to reject the A through F evaluation system that was implemented under former State Superintendent of Schools Tony Bennett. They’re the second school board in the state to do so after emails revealed Bennett altered the grade of a campaign donor’s charter school last year.

“No child deserves to say I am going to an ‘f’ school or a ‘d’ school. That discourages them, that discourages the families, it discourages the whole community,” says board member William Sniadecki

South Bend board members say the current system evaluates schools on several factors, but focuses primarily on I-STEP scores.

They’re concerned because it doesn’t take into account other aspects that might impact a student’s score on the exam, such as poverty, special needs or language proficiency.

“It’s not a healthy way and it doesn't involve multiple measures overtime which is something we want to see, some type of triangulated data about how schools are doing,” said South Bend Schools Superintendent Carole Schmidt.

The board’s vote won’t prevent it from being evaluated under the A through F grading system or impact funding, but they’re hoping it sends a message to state leaders.

They want to see a new, more comprehensive evaluation model implemented as soon as possible.

“We don't feel that the current ranking system of our schools reflects what's going on,” said board member Roger Parent.

But, a more comprehensive evaluation model may take a while.

“Governor Pence said late last week that there is no intention of changing the accountability system this year,” explains Indiana Board of Education Second Congressional District Representative, Dr. David Freitas, “it would have to go back to the legislature to be changed.

South Bend’s school board is the second in the state to denounce the grading system. Fort Wayne’s school board approved a similar resolution last week.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education and state legislature are both investigating the Bennett scandal. Their findings are expected in the coming weeks.

They’re also working on developing a new school report card system, which Schmidt says could be ready for review by November.

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