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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Gov. Mike Pence and wife Karen pose Wednesday with Fort Wayne kids before "Walk a Mile With Mike."

Pence is sticking with A-F grades for schools

FORT WAYNE – Gov. Mike Pence said Wednesday he remains committed to the state's system for assigning letter grades to schools based on their academic performance despite media reports that the former Indiana education chief changed a charter school's grade from a C to an A.

Pence indicated he is open to considering proposals for ensuring that grades are determined in "an accurate and fair and impartial way."

"It's extremely important that our A-to-F system be preserved and also that the people of Indiana have confidence in that system," Pence said in an interview during a visit to Fort Wayne. "I don't want to prejudge it. We'll look forward to providing any appropriate support to the Department of Education to make sure we examine the issues that have been raised.

"I want to give the Department of Education and Superintendent (Glenda) Ritz the opportunity to review the A-to-F system initially, and then we'll consider other proposals," the first-term governor said.

The Associated Press has reported on emails showing that former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and his staff last year switched the grade of Christel House Academy from its original C to an A. In one email he wrote to his chief of staff, Bennett said that "anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," the AP reported.

The Indianapolis charter school was founded by Christel DeHaan, who has donated $2.7 million to Republican political candidates, including $130,000 to Bennett's campaign.

"I think the A-to-F system is extremely important," Pence said Wednesday. "We worked in the last session of the Indiana General Assembly to preserve the system. I think it is an essential part of the public accountability that is so important in improving education in Indiana. Parents have a right to know how their schools are performing overall. But that system needs to really reflect the performance of those schools in an accurate and fair and impartial way."

Pence spoke after he and his wife, Karen, took part in a mile-long fitness walk on the city's south side. Scores of people from at least five counties participated, including Mayor Tom Henry and members of the Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing, Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Fort Wayne Urban League and the Fort Wayne/Allen County NAACP.

"A healthy Hoosier is a more prosperous Hoosier," Pence told the crowd before the walk in a neighborhood near Foster Park.