Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Gov. Pence Wants Indiana Schools To Receive A-F Grades This Year

    Gov. Mike Pence speaks to reporters.

    Brandon Smith / IPBS (File)

    Gov. Mike Pence speaks to reporters.

    Despite two investigations into how state education officials issued A-F school grades in 2012 and a request from state lawmakers to re-write the grading criteria, Gov. Mike Pence said Thursday he thinks schools should still receive the letter grade ratings this year.

    Speaking with statehouse reporters, Pence also discussed his general ideas for what the re-tooled A-F grading system ought to look like:

    That kind of accountability, I think, is important. But it’s extremely important that the people of Indiana have confidence in that system. It’s important to note the legislature already required us to review the A-F system before this present controversy began. We’re in the process of doing that.

    We’re going to get to the bottom of the accusations that have been raised. I’m confident this independent review will get the questions answered for the people of Indiana. I want to make it clear — this administration is committed to accountability, committed to preserving the A-F system, and I think once we get those questions answered, I believe once we answer the questions and bring about appropriate reforms and have a fair A-to-F system, that our school systems will embrace that heartily…

    From very early on, I’ve been meeting with our superintendent of public instruction. And we’ve been talking about ways to assess, particularly in the area of growth, rather than having one set objective standard where everybody has the same measurement applied. We ought to have clear standards, but we also ought to reward schools that are achieving growth in the education, wherever their kids are starting. Frankly, kids in some of our schools are starting out at different points from other kids.

    I think the adjustments the legislature mandated already in the A-F system, the present review that’s underway, needs to move forward. But at the end of the day, we’re committed to accountability, and I’m committed to the A-F system.

    The emails showing former state superintendent Tony Bennett‘s staff made last-minute changes to the grading criteria in 2012 has generated increased ill will toward the grading system among local school officials.

    The Fort Wayne Community School board voted this week to no longer recognize schools in their district “based solely upon” the A-F rating the state gives them.

    On Thursday, the Indianapolis Public Schools announced it had filed a public records request for all documents related to the takeover of four of its schools — takeovers set in motion because of the schools’ 2011 A-F grades.

    Public school advocates have charged Bennett gave preferential treatment to a favorite charter school in 2012 while denying the requests for leniency under the rating system when deciding which schools to take over in 2011.

    “It is in the best interest of our students and their families for all of the facts surrounding the school takeovers to be disclosed to the public and reviewed in the light of day,” IPS Board of Commissioners President Diane Arnold said in a statement Thursday.

    Bennett has defended his actions, saying he was working to fix anomalies within the school grading formula.

    As we’ve written, the changes Bennett made lifted the final letter grades of 165 schools across the state.

    State superintendent Glenda Ritz, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long have all promised to complete investigations into how Bennett’s team calculated the 2012 grades.


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