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Letter Grades Of 180 Schools Lifted With Scale Changes

Two outside policy analysts have concluded former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s last-minute changes to the state’s A-F grading formula were “plausible.”

Tony Bennett

Photo: Department of Education

Former Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long commissioned the report amid controversy the former state superintendent had boosted the school letter grade of a favorite Indianapolis charter school.

A pair of policy analysts found the changes made by Tony Bennett’s staff lifted not just Christel House Academy’s grade but the grades of 180 other schools across the state.

Bennett, who resigned his post as Florida schools chief over allegations of wrongdoing in Indiana, said in a statement he felt vindicated by the report’s conclusion.

But Bosma stopped short of saying whether Bennett’s staff was right to use Christel House — a top performer under the state’s previous accountability system — as a benchmark for designing the new system.

“A policy decision was made,” Bosma says. “That was interpretation under the rule on how you treat these transition schools — not just Christel House.”

For her part, Superintendent Glenda Ritz says her department helped prepare the statistical analysis of the report and agrees with the conclusion. But she says the old accountability system isn’t nuanced enough to handle the more than 90 different configurations of Indiana schools.

 “There were discrepancies with adherence to the rule and the application of the rules. That’s something I’m going to have to wrestle with as I go forward to calculate the 2012-13,” Ritz says.

Even before it became apparent Bennett’s staff had made changes to the A-F system, state lawmakers had flagged it for a review.

A newly-created panel will make recommendations for the rewrite to the State Board. It’s unlikely letter grades issued for the 2012-13 will count against schools facing possible state intervention.

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