Letter: What is the measure of excellence?



As a lifelong Hamilton County resident, I know Carmel schools have always been excellent. Unify Carmel wants you to believe our schools are now failing, offering disingenuous readings of testing data to sell their fiction. This is the only data point they discuss because it’s the only one they can spin. In reality, CCS is thriving.

Assessing school performance requires many forms of data. Here’s what we know:

Among similar-sized districts, Carmel has ranked first in the state for student passing scores on ISTEP and ILEARN since 2017; we’ve never ranked below fourth. We have a 97.5 percent graduation rate, with 61 National Merit Semifinalists in 2020, and we’ve won 11 Blue Ribbon awards. In 2019-2020, we had 866 “scholar athletes” with a 3.7 GPA or higher. We show excellence in athletics, performing arts and other extra curriculars.

But even these impressive data points do not tell the real story. To find that, we need to ask: What are we really trying to achieve in our pursuit of excellence? Do we want to graduate lifelong learners who know how to think critically? Or just students who can pass standardized tests?

What standardized tests don’t show are intangibles like grit, tenacity, work ethic and integrity. They don’t show the gumption and dedication it takes to manage multiple sports while maintaining a high GPA. They don’t show character and compatibility, which are essential in the workplace. They don’t show creativity and innovation. Test scores and GPAs aren’t the only indicators of success. (Former late-night talk show host) David Letterman’s grades were mediocre, but he certainly wasn’t!

If our teachers look at collective data to grade students, why is our community so focused on testing that we’re falling for Unify’s ruse? We shouldn’t be. Carmel schools are committed to excellence in graduating strong, independent, well-rounded adults. How is that failure?

Heather Benesh, Carmel