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Gary leaders want to dump A-F grading

Tony Bennett State Superintendent Public Instructispeaks during Gary Chamber Commerce's EducatiCommittee forum Ivy Tech Gary Ind. Thursday July 11 2012.

Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, speaks during the Gary Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee forum at Ivy Tech in Gary, Ind. Thursday July 11, 2012. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: September 4, 2013 6:12AM



Disgruntled Gary educators and city leaders continued their chorus of complaints Friday over actions taken by former Indiana school chief Tony Bennett.

Some of the criticism stretched to the State Board of Education, the body that approved Bennett’s “A-F” grading system.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, a Gary Democrat who sits on the House Education Committee, called for the grading system to be suspended for a year and for State Board of Education members who supported it to resign.

AFT Indiana, a teachers union, called for the suspension of the grading system Thursday.

“However, if board members continue their hostility toward her (Ritz) and futilely defend this embarrassing debacle of the A-F grading system, then the members need to resign ...

“It is an ethical travesty for Indiana’s students to be used as pawns in this insidious, political game of creating a type of pulp fiction of achievement for political allies, while vilifying our state’s public schools, our educators and our students.”

Meanwhile Friday, top state lawmakers named an independent task force to review the “A-F” grading system less than a week after an Associated Press story detailed how Bennett changed the grading formula to benefit a Republican donor’s charter school.

Steven Mays, president of the Gary branch of the NAACP, said his group was appalled and disappointed. “We feel as though our children have been cheated and that the Gary Community Schools are not getting a fair shake”

Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said Thursday that the 2011 state takeover on the Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy, because of several years of poor academic performance, should be overturned because the system was tainted.

State Board of Education member Tony Walker, of Gary, said the intervention votes by the state board on the turnaround schools took place in the summer of 2011 before the A-F accountability system was launched in 2012.

He said the measure used in the state board’s vote was based on the formula using AYP or average yearly progress.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson echoed Pruitt’s demand.

“I am gravely concerned about the revelations of Dr. Bennett’s conduct while serving as the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction,” Freeman-Wilson said. “As with any instance of data tampering, all determinations made by an entity should be questioned. We must closely review Roosevelt’s evaluation.”

Bennett lost to Democrat Glenda Ritz last year. Since then, she’s been at odds with the largely GOP-appointed State Board of Education, which is meeting on Wednesday to discuss the grading system.

Ritz launched an internal review of the grading system Tuesday. Republican Gov. Mike Pence said Thursday he supports a review of the system but did not say whether grades issued by Bennett should be suspended.

Bennett resigned his job as Florida education commissioner Thursday, just days after The Associated Press published emails showing his staff changing Indiana’s grading system to ensure a school founded by top Republican donor Christel DeHaan got an A.

Bennett denies giving special treatment to the Christel House Academy, and DeHaan and school officials said they were not involved in discussions about the grade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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