You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Learning Curve

  • NCAA cries foul on virtual charters
    A prediction: Runaway school choice will finally be corralled on the basketball court or football field.
  • Yong Zhao: Common sense on Common Core
    Yong Zhao, associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon, knows much about Chinese schools and his warnings about U.S. efforts to emulate them are worth studying.
  • Indiana lawmakers fail pre-K
    Brandon Smith's Q&A interview with state Sen. Luke Kenley for StateImpact Indiana so perfectly sums up Indiana's backward views on preschool education that it should be required reading for every parent.

Flunking Indiana's A-F grade scheme

The only real fallout to disclosure of Tony Bennett's grade-fixing scheme has been the former Indiana schools chief's resignation from the same position in Florida. That's likely to change tonight when Mark GiaQuinta brings a resolution before the Fort Wayne Community Schools board to cease recognizing the "Bennett A-F System of Accountability."

The resolution also urges other Indiana school districts to follow suit to "send a message to Indiana legislators and Indiana's educational leaders that the strength and quality of school instruction should never be judged on the basis of a single test."

The FWCS board president said he personally regrets acknowledging the top grades awarded to some district schools even as lower-ranked schools showed progress under measures not considered by Bennett's system.

If adopted at tonight's meeting, it's the strongest statement to date on the flawed system. Yes, the General Assembly agreed last spring to revise the grading formula, but lawmakers also are intent on sticking with an A-F measure. Those I've talked to insist it's the best way to inform parents about school quality, although the legislators themselves can't explain the difference between a "C" school and an "A" school.

GiaQuinta's proposed resolution:


WHEREAS, the State of Indiana under former State Supt Tony Bennett created an accountability system that assigns a letter grade to schools ranging from A to F ("Bennett A-F System"); and,

WHEREAS, the letter grade assigned to a school is purportedly for the purpose of providing a basis for parents to choose a school for their children; and,

WHEREAS, the letter grade system was based upon the absolute scores by students on the ISTEP examination without respect to numerous factors that affect scores, including the number of students living in poverty, the number of students learning the English language, the number of students with special needs, and the extent of parental involvement; and,

WHEREAS, Fort Wayne Community Schools ("FWCS") recognizes that which the Bennett A-F System de-emphasized – a school's success in demonstrating growth in its students' educational performance; and,

WHEREAS, the recent ISTEP testing fiasco demonstrates the limitations of the Bennett A-F System of accountability based upon the results of a single test which can be impacted by factors beyond the school's control; and,

WHEREAS, factors that are critical in determining the strength of a school and the commitment of its staff, that were either ignored or de-emphasized in the Bennett system are those and,

WHEREAS, the Bennett A-F System ignored important factors that the FWCS Board believes should be considered by parents in selecting a school for their parents, including the experience of its building leaders, the attendance rates of its students and staff, the experience of its teaching staff, any awards won by the school's staff, the extracurricular activities available to students, the awards won by the students in the school, the disciplinary data collected for the school and the school's performance in narrowing the gap between various groups of students; and,

WHEREAS, prior to the adoption of the Bennett A-F System, FWCS adopted the balanced scorecard system of accountability for its schools and other departments which includes objective measurements that demonstrate improvement consistent with the FWCS Board's Goals; and,

WHEREAS, the recent determination that the Bennett A-F System was manipulated to enhance the letter grade of a school run by a Bennett supporter further undermines the credibility of that accountability system; and,

WHEREAS, the FWCS has regrettably recognized district schools based upon the school's having obtained an A rating under the Bennett A-F System which unintentionally minimized the accomplishments of the students and staffs of schools which demonstrated significant growth which was left unaccounted for under the Bennett A-F System.


  1. The FWCS Board of School Trustees resolves that it 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.
  1. The FWCS Board recommends to its Superintendant that FWCS continue to develop the Balanced Scorecard System of Accountability and that the district's schools be recognized for meeting the objective measurements included in the BSC which demonstrate continuous improvement and which can be used by parents to assist them in making an educational choice for their children based upon the true quality of the instruction occurring in its schools.
  1. FWCS Board respectfully urges other school districts in the State of Indiana to adopt this recommendation in order to send a message to Indiana legislators and educational leaders that the strength and quality of school instruction should never be judged on the basis of a single test but rather on the totality of factors described in this Resolution.

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