Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

September 17, 2013

Report: Bennett "fairly" changed school grades

(Continued)

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long commissioned the report to determine the validity of the A to F school rating system for the 2011-12 school year, after the allegations arose in an Associated Press report.

At a press conference Friday, both said the report cleared Bennett of the accusation that he manipulated grades to benefit Christel House.

“I hope this will exonerate the former administration from (the allegation) of being biased or unfair,” Long said.

Both Bosma and Long noted that the legislature has already moved to change the school grading system and that an advisory panel made up of educators from around the state will help guide those changes. One of the changes anticipated is less emphasis on the year-end standardized test scores and more emphasis on students’ academic progress from year to year.

The report released Friday was conducted by Democrat John Grew, executive director of state relations and policy analysis at Indiana University, and Republican Bill Sheldrake, president and founder of Indianapolis-based research firm Policy Analytics.

Grew and Sheldrake found 16 charter schools benefitted from changes made by Bennett’s staff at to the grading formula and another 165 public and private schools also saw their final grades go up, after Bennett’s staff discovered it had applied the formula erroneously. Grew and Sheldrake said part of the problem stemmed from the loss of technical staff at the Department of Education, resulting in failure to perform “quality control” prior to the release of the final grades.

Grew and Sheldrake recommended the state move forward on developing a new school grading system that provides more transparency, more involvement from education stakeholders, and that the new system be “as simple as possible, more easily understood, and equitable.”

Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz was also at the press conference Friday. In response to a question about whether she thought the report exonerated Bennett, Ritz said she hadn’t had time to thoroughly read the report. The allegations against Bennett were prompted by a series of emails that Ritz’s office had released to the Associated Press earlier this summer.

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