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Waivering on a complex measure

If you assumed the No Child Left Behind waiver request granted to Indiana by the Obama administration today had broad support from the state's education stakeholders, you would be wrong.

Broad concensus is the impression the Indiana Department of Ed gave to the federal DOE in its 502-page waiver application. (opens as a pdf) But the state's exemption from the federal accountability law rests on its implementation of new A-F letter-grade guidelines. At a public hearing last month, there was rare agreement among groups like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the ISTA that new system was flawed.

Still, the Indiana State Board of Education approved the new grading system Wednesday. The two votes against it, interestingly, came from the public school educators on the board, Adams Central Superintendent Michael Pettibone and charter school Principal Vicki Snyder. (More on Pettibone's well-thought-out views later.)

The new guidelines will mean some dramatic changes in the grades awarded just this year. In Allen County, the Timothy L. Johnson Academy charter school goes from a grade of B to an F, while Homestead High School in the Southwest Allen County Schools district rises from a C to an A.

The whole point of the letter-grade system was to make it easier for the public to decipher the accountability system. Does this do it? It sure doesn't seem like it.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at