Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

September 17, 2013

Report: Bennett "fairly" changed school grades

(Continued)

Ritz did say that the report released Friday confirmed her concerns that the rules for how the A-F grades were supposed to be awarded didn’t jibe with how Bennett and his staff at the state Department of Education implemented the grading system.

The report found that the Christel House Academy did indeed see its final grade raised after Bennett intervened. It said Christel House was considered a “benchmark” school for excellence and that the preliminary grade given to Christel House of a C signaled an alarm bell that something was wrong with the grading formula. Bennett’s staff concluded that part of the problem stemmed from the formula’s failure to account for the fact that Christel House, which only offered the 9th and 10th grades, was being compared to full 4-year high schools.

In going back to look the complicated formula, Bennett’s staff also discovered it had erroneously used what are called “subject matter growth caps”: a provision in the grading process that makes more difficult for schools to use good testing results in one subject area, such as English, to pull up a school’s overall grade by canceling out the poor scores in another subject area, such as math.

When Bennett’s staff removed the growth caps, which weren’t supposed to be used, the A-F grades for 165 schools around the state shot up.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the legislature continued their criticism of the A-F grading system and said the allegations made against Bennett were prompted in part by his own lack of transparency in how the grades were awarded.

“Today’s findings only confirm when standards are set in a climate of limited transparency and accountability and without the input of those being evaluated, the product is more than suspect,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson.

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