Lakeshore News Tonight

This article underwritten by: Renetta DuBose

Local Educators On State A-F Accountability Panel

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September 13, 2013 — Cheryl Ramsey is taking her education cues from Indiana State Representative and educator Dr. Vernon Smith.  That’s because he nominated her to the Accountability System Review Panel, a statewide group of educators tasked with transforming the Department of Education’s A-F grading system.

“When Dr. Smith first told me I was nominated he said you might not be appointed, but I did nominate you,” said Cheryl Ramsey, Principal of Beveridge Elementary School in Gary.

The kind gesture did land Ramsey a seat on the panel along with 15 other educators and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.  The panel was commissioned jointly by Ritz, Governor Mike Pence, Indiana Senate President David Long and Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma after controversy regarding former Republican state superintendent Tony Bennett changing the letter grade system for political gain.  Ritz will lead the panel of teachers in their recommendation of a fair and transparent system.

Ramsey, an educator for more than 20 years in Gary who oversees an F-rated school, strives for success and she said her teachers and parents do as well.  But it’s the state process, not the subjects of the system that should be held accountable.

“The system does not seem to be very clear, very concise for me.  That would be my goal.  To have a grading system for schools that is very clear, that principals, teachers, superintendents, everyone evolved knows what needs to happen to move your school,” said Ramsey.

Joining Ramsey on the panel is E. Ric Frataccia, Superintendent of Portage Township Schools.  After more than 40 years working in education, he’s not sold on the way the DOE assigns letter grades to schools.

“There absolutely has to be a way to factor in the background of the kids,” said Frataccia.

Frataccia wants to level the grading playing field to make the system fair.  He said some students are on free and reduced lunch and have completely different, albeit more difficult lives than other students who come to school on test day.

“Let’s say that 80 percent of your kid population is on free and reduced lunch.  The percent pass is 65.  When you look at the 65 and you compare it to the state, the state may have 75.  So, when you first look at it you may say they don’t perform as well as the state. When you take a look at the student population, 80 percent of the kids are on free and reduced lunch.  About 48 percent of the state kids are on free and reduced lunch so it’s not level,” Frataccia said.

Frataccia, who has seen an A grade for his district for the past three years, said he’s not sure the grade has been what students and teachers need most to excel.

“There was a time when our clientele understood clearly what exemplary meant.  To turn exemplary into an A and a B, I’m not sure that didn’t make the system more harsh,” said Frataccia.

Ramsey said she feels there is a stigma associated with being assessed on the lower end of the grading scale.

“As a principal of a school that’s been graded an F, when people think of F, they think of failure.  And that everything that you’re doing is a failure or is not good.  I would like to see something clearer and more intimately understood by people because sometimes instead of being a motivator it could be very depressing,” said Ramsey.

Frataccia and Ramsey will head to Indianapolis next week to begin work on the accountability system.

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