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WHISTLEBLOWER: PHM School inflating student grades with 50% policy on incomplete work

Administrator accused of lying to the school board regarding the policy

MISHAWAKA, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned a middle school in the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation is inflating student grades through a policy meant to bring equity to the student population. However, the policy in place at Schmucker Middle School is having a dire impact on student achievement according to an anonymous whistleblower who happens to be a teacher at the school. It turns out, the policy was also kept secret from at least some members of the school board.

Since the 2020 school year, administrators at Schmucker Middle School have had a 50% policy for any failing grade. That means a student cannot receive anything lower than a 50% grade on anything, including incompleted work.

“We now have an epidemic of missing work from students.” A whistleblower wrote in a letter to school board member. “We are at a point where students pick and choose which assignments will matter the most to their grades… I feel like the 50% is a disservice to the students in helping them reach our PHM mission.”

The whistleblower came forward after a board meeting discussing the district’s middle school student handbook. During that meeting, an administrator told the school board that teachers have discretion when giving 50% grades. The whistleblower stated that is simply a lie.

“In the fall of 2020, the Schmucker staff was told that we were not allowed to give any zeros for non-completed work.” The whistleblower states. “This decision was not decided by individual learning communities or a panel of teachers to come up with how the policy might impact different content-based classes as stated to the board… The policy has stayed in place since the 2020-2021 school year.”

Dr. Lavon Dean-Null, current Director of Professional Development & Student Learning and former Principal of Schmucker Middle School — Dean-Null is named as being responsible for the policy of inflating grades.

The whistleblower claims the board was lied to by the Director of Professional Development & Student Learning, Levon Dean Null, who was the Principal of Schmucker Middle School in 2020. According to the PHM Website, Dean Null was also previously the principal of Walt Disney Elementary School “and before that served as assistant principal of Grissom Middle School. She taught Language Arts and Social Studies at Discovery Middle School from 2001-2013. Mrs. Dean-Null was P-H-M’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.”

The whistleblower goes on to state their concern of potential retribution by school leaders for speaking up regarding the policy.

“(I) apologize for the need to be anonymous. I am concerned that there could be retribution involved as a staff member if I do not align with head decision makers.” The whistleblower writes. “I want what is best for my students and that is to have an honest debate when it comes to policy that directly impacts their education.”

RNM is in possession of the whistleblower’s letter. However, due to the concern of retribution, we will not be publishing the letter in its entirety in an attempt to protect the educator’s identity.

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  1. No big deal to this conservative public school educator. I have had a 50% policy for years. The lazy kids still will fail, and the policy helps those few border kids who actually care, somewhat. This is not school policy; it is my own, and I cannot justify even a 50% for no work.


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