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Parents, educators object to ICAN grading system

I am writing in response to the letter to the editor from Dawn McGrath on March 10. I am one of the parents who spoke at the South Harrison Community School Corp. school board meeting to which she refers. I appreciate the fact that Ms. McGrath understands the parents at the meeting took time from their busy schedules to attend because they feel so passionately about what is going on in our schools.
However, I am very insulted that she implied in her letter that the parents at the meeting were an uneducated mob. In her example, she used the term, ‘… mob of patients,’ and later in her letter claims that ICAN is supported by ‘well-educated’ parents in other school systems, implying that parents who oppose ICAN are not. I very strongly resent these inflammatory implications.
Yes, the group of parents at the meeting, myself included, represented a very upset and frustrated section of our community. However, that is where the group’s resemblance to a mob of unwashed, uneducated peasants wielding torches while storming the monster’s castle ends. Among the widely varied group of parents were a teacher from another school system, a substitute teacher from South Harrison, a university employee and various local professionals from a wide range of businesses. That hardly qualifies as an uneducated mob.
Since Ms. McGrath did not see fit to address any of the main reasons why parents are so opposed to the ICAN system, or answer any of the questions at the meeting, but instead used her time to insult caring parents, please allow me to briefly outline some of our objections.
The ICAN system is robbing our children of valuable, irreplaceable instructional time. Teachers must use hours of classroom and personal time to attend ICAN training and collaboration meetings in addition to the tremendous amount of time required to enter student data in the computer. The result of this loss of instructional time is readily apparent in the roughly 10 percent drop on ISTEP scores over the last year, the same time span ICAN has been in place at Corydon Elementary. This is not misinformation and is easily verified on the state Dept. of Education’s Web site. Here’s the Web address:
We parents do not understand the ICAN reports. This is not a result of a lack of education or intelligence among parents. It is instead a result of the conflicting nature of answers given to parents by teachers and administrators.
When questioned about how ICAN is used, what the reports mean, and what is used to create the ‘grades’ students are given, the administrators balk at giving a clear-cut, black-and-white answer. How can parents be expected to understand the reports when the local ICAN director stated openly, at the board meeting, that the administrators are still trying to ‘figure out’ some of the applications thereof?
Parents are also very upset at the lack of student motivation inherent to the ICAN system. Once a student has shown the minimum mastery of a standard (keep in mind the standards themselves are the minimum amount of learning expected for each grade level) that student receives an assessment of ‘Demonstrated.’ That same demonstrated is awarded whether the student puts forth a tremendous amount of effort or just enough to ‘get by.’ ICAN has a pass-or-fail structure, giving students absolutely no incentive to work hard enough to excel academically.
Parents are also worried about the planned implementation of ICAN in the junior and senior high schools within the next two years.
We may be an uneducated mob in some eyes, but we all want our children to go on beyond a high school diploma. We want our children to be accepted into quality universities, and we’ll need scholarship assistance to pay for those educations.
ICAN will not help our children reach those goals; in fact, it may hinder them. ICAN generates no grade-point average (GPA). A high GPA is the ‘magic ticket’ for admission to quality schools and scholarship money. My own college education was paid for by a scholarship awarded based solely on my GPA. I could not afford my own college education without it, and my retired parents would not have been able to afford to either. I would not have had the academic stamina to reach and maintain a high GPA if I had not been taught early in my scholastic career to put forth as much effort as possible with every assignment. ICAN simply does not give the students a clear-cut reward for outstanding achievement.
What ICAN sows now, the children will have to reap for the rest of their lives.
Sharon Hays and her husband, Michael, have a daughter at Corydon Intermediate School and a son at Corydon Elementary School. Sharon is now a stay-at-home mom who was on the Hayswoood Theatre board for three years and directed the Summer Youth Workshop for three years.