Fort Wayne-area educators voice opposition to state’s proposed A to F Accountability Rule

Superintendent Wendy Robinson, at the podium at back right, the leader of Fort Wayne Community Schools, was one of the area educators who spoke against the state's proposed new A-F Accountability Rule during the Indiana State Board of Education's public hearing on the rule Monday evening at Ivy Tech Community College-Fort Wayne. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Area educators voiced unanimous opposition to a proposed new state A-F Accountability Rule during the first hour of a public input meeting Monday evening in the auditorium at Ivy Tech Community College-Fort Wayne, 3800 N. Anthony Blvd.

The Indiana State Board of Education (ISBOE) proposed the new A-F rule, which sets up a new process for assigning a letter grade to Indiana elementary, middle and high schools and to school districts as a general indication of their performance in educating students to the state’s new college and career-ready standards.

Board members now are seeking public comment on the proposal before the ISBOE likely votes on a final version of the rule on June 30, it said on the ISBOE web page about the rulemaking process, http://www.in.gov/sboe/2406.htm. The rule would take effect July 1 for the 2018-2019 school year.

The proposed rule can be read at http://www.in.gov/legislative/iac/20180214-IR-511180007PRA.xml.html.

At Monday’s hearing, which is one of five the ISBOE will hold statewide, educators and the public could make comments from 4 to 7 p.m. at a microphone. They also can email their thoughts to the ISBOE by 5 p.m. April 4 at SBOE_Comment@sboe.in.gov.

Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson, who was among those making public comments, questioned why the ISBOE needs to change the current A-F accountability system.

“We are back to checking boxes,” Robinson said rather than letting teachers work with students, which produces more successful long-term educational results.

Along with the new graduation pathways plan the state board also adopted, the state’s efforts seem designed to designate schools and communities as failures, she said.

Brent Lehman, superintendent of North Adams Community Schools in Decatur, told ISBOE members at the hearing that educating kids is “messy” and doesn’t fit into a cookie-cutter approach.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, state legislators and some ISBOE members pushing for the proposed A-F rule and the already-approved new graduation pathways have no idea how to educate children, Lehman said.

Parents, teachers and the Indiana Department of Education staff know best how to educate children, he said. If given the opportunity, they will create a system that puts the needs of children first.

John Houser, principal of Wayne High School, told ISBOE members that a couple of major local company leaders told him they don’t care about a school’s A-F grade. They place greater value on whether schools produce students with the knowledge and skills to become good employees, such as ability in problem-solving and critical thinking, said Houser, whose building also houses FWCS’ New Tech Academy at Wayne High School program.

Shortly before 5 p.m., when there were no more people present who wanted to make public comments, ISBOE member Steve Yager, the former superintendent of both Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools in Allen County, asked that the hearing’s minutes include that, of the 45 people present, everyone spoke or stood up to show they were against the proposed A-F rule, and no one spoke in favor of it.

UPCOMING HEARINGS

Here are the Indiana State Board of Education’s upcoming public hearings on its proposed A-F Accountability Rule for Indiana schools:

• Feb. 22: 4-7 p.m., Ivy Cafe, Room 109, Ivy Tech Community College-South Bend, 220 Dean Johnson Blvd., South Bend

• Feb. 26: 4-7 p.m., Eykamp Hall, Room 251, Ridgway University Center, University of Evansville, 1801 E. Walnut St. in Evansville

• March 1: 4-7 p.m., Lecture Hall, Room 1520, Ivy Tech Community College-Madison, 590 Ivy Tech Drive in Madison

• March 9: 8:30-11:30 a.m., Conference Room C, Indiana Government Center, South, 302 W. Washington St. in Indianapolis

Comments regarding the new proposed A-F Accountability Rule also can be sent by 5 p.m. April 4 to SBOE_Comment@sboe.in.gov.

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