GARY | Ambassador Christian Academy in Gary, which has some 370 students, many of whom are using state vouchers, earned an F as its grade for 2013.
The grades for public and private schools were released by the Indiana Department of Education on Friday after the state board voted during a public meeting.
Ambassador Principal Vercena Stewart initially said the school had put some things in place to improve the scores, then said, "We have not received the grade, so I can't comment on it."
Ambassador, a private religious school established by Embassies of Christ in Gary, became well known three years ago when its enrollment ballooned as a result of the state's voucher program. In its first year, Ambassador attracted more students to the school who used vouchers than any other private school in the state.
Indiana passed its school voucher law in 2011. School vouchers, also called the Choice Scholarship, allow a student to use state dollars — previously distributed to public schools — to attend a private school of his or her choice.
The program, in its third year of operation, has more than 9,300 students using vouchers across the state.
In Northwest Indiana, Ambassador and St. Stanislaus School in East Chicago have drawn the most students to the program. In the 2012-13 school year, 159 students at Ambassador were using vouchers. The school received $709,743.71 on their behalf. St. Stanislaus also earned an F. In the 2012-13 school year, St. Stanislaus had 114 students using vouchers and received $491,603.96.
IDOE spokesman Dan Altman said current figures are not available.
Ambassador Academy, like more than 100 other private schools in the state, is listed at the IDOE as Freeway Accredited. Indiana adopted a “freeway schools” law in the mid-1990s, allowing some private schools to escape cumbersome school requirements concerning curriculum or textbooks. In exchange, the Freeway school had to sign a contract saying it would maintain high levels of achievement.
There was some debate at the State Board of Education on Friday about the Freeway Accreditation, but the board does not have the ability to make changes in the law.