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4/6/2012 8:29:00 AM
EDITORIAL: State study reaches too far in grading citizens

Herald Bulletin

There was a time when the common A-F letter grade system was relatively a private affair.

A grade was written on homework or a report card and sent home to parents. In the American dream, good grades would get you into a good college.

Then Americans decided that grading one another in a more public fashion was acceptable. Recently Hoosiers have allowed their state education guru to formulate plans to publicly grade teachers, schools and school systems.

Now the state has paid for a study in which all Hoosiers are graded.

Just so you know, Madison County residents received a D. The D is intended to be interpreted as “do better,” not D as in “dummies.”

Also, Madison County received an F for education (due mostly to ISTEP results), B- in government and B in arts, entertainment and recreation.

The grades were cited in the Indiana Community Asset Inventory and Rankings 2012, a state-funded study issued by the Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, headed by Michael Hicks.

Every Hoosier county received grades based on such factors as quality of life, population growth, poverty, cancer incidence and traffic fatalities, among many more.

Where is it written in Indiana state law that everything needs a letter grade? And where is it written that such grades could be publicly bandied about so that residents in one county can gloat over those in another?

For example, Madison County’s more affluent neighbor, Hamilton County, received four A’s. Its only C was in government, based on tax rates, viability of Main Street businesses, metropolitan development and crime rate.

What’s the immediate affect of this comparison? Well, some parents might tell A students not to play with F students — it would stunt their development and get them in trouble. Hamilton County A’s may not want to fraternize with us D’s or Henry County’s D-minuses. That doesn’t bode well for a regional spirit of economic development.

If the BSU study has redeeming aspects, as some defend, public policy discussions could spark long-term solutions. That end result, in essence, was what school report cards once accomplished in Indiana. They established areas where individual students needed improvement.

Report cards were never to be blind indictments against an entire classroom of students. Yet that is the direction many state leaders have chosen.

The faulty premise of this report does not lie in flawed data. Indeed, many of us have sensed the disparity between counties.

Instead, Hoosiers would be right to question the motives of a state government that funds a study to grade its citizenry.

Related Stories:
• New county 'report card' grades community assets

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