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.


  • caddman

    Now there’s an expert in education spewing corrupted data that he thinks is OK and how he (a self proclaimed expert in education) thinks the A-F system ought to work. Will someone explain to Pence that the person who is suppose to do that, who is an expert, who got more votes than him in the last election, that ousted his last so called expert, needs to have the freedom and authority to do the job is Ritz. Come on Pence, fix the economy but get out of the educational kitchen.

  • scott H

    We don’t faith in the A -F system because it was flawed at the onset, and was proven so by its created when he lied. Seriously Governor- you still want to used a flawed system? Let Glenda do her job. You try to do yours better!

    • Bilgewater

      If Governor Pence tries to Glenda’s job as well as his own (doing the job of two people), then he’ll mess up both. Being governor is hard enough–he needs to stay out of education.

      Let’s not forget that Glenda Ritz received more votes than Mike Pence on election night.

  • Heath

    Governor Pence has no business meddling with the education of Hoosier children. The people voted clearly to entrust our children to Glenda Ritz, not a career politician with presidential aspirations! Mike Pence, Brian Bosma and the rest will only seek to undermine Glenda, and the voters, by covering for Tony Bennett and preserving their corrupt system that is meant to privatize our public school system and make money for their contributors.
    It really is that simple.
    Create a crisis by under funding schools, blame teachers and their unions, take over the schools, privatize them, award contracts to campaign donors. Done. All the while, our children, get short-changed. Don’t think for a second that these “reformers” give a damn about you, me or our children!!

    • Fred

      look at performance data you dolt

  • Melissa

    How interesting that Pence said, “Frankly, kids in some of our schools are starting out at different points from other kids.” Makes me think that he is surprised by that fact. Teachers know that children at the same age level will not be at the same academic level. Children learn at different rates, & have different modes of learning, whether it be verbal, visual, motor, or a combination. He and the Legislature should leave education to the educators, who have the classroom experiences from years of teaching.

    • Bilgewater

      Is there a professional and meaningful way to say “duhhhh” to a governor when he says something like that?

  • Benevolus

    So Hinnefeld, Hyslop and Spradlin checked your math on determining 165 schools “changed”? Now if you are all wrong, whether one or 100, does that mean you all “manipulated” the results or just got them wrong because you missed something in the rule or formula? I need to know which word to describe all of you when proven incorrect. What do you prefer – manipulated, cheated, incompetent, obtuse, or just mistaken?

    • Karynb9

      You’ve been on Twitter and on this forum a few times with thinly-veiled accusations that all of US are idiots and you know something that would vindicate Bennett. I would love to hear it if true. You have zero credibility if you simply tell everyone else they’re wrong about what happened and refuse to provide an alternative.

    • Bilgewater

      Please provide proof. There is ample proof that Bennett manipulated the grades. Do you have any countervailing evidence? Not only do Bennett’s opponents need to see your proof, but Bennett himself would benefit from your information. As a classroom teacher in a public school, I dislike Bennett very much, but I’m willing to look at facts and data, even if they cast doubts on what I believe.

      You might be interested to know that Mr. Bennett never looked at data that did not support his pre-conceived notions.

      Everybody is interested in your information.

  • Bilgewater

    When I read “he [Bennett] was working to fix anomalies within the school grading formula,” my baloney detector went off the scale.

    There should never have been “anomalies” in the formula. The formula should’ve been easily understood, given numerous test runs, and tested again with real data. And it should’ve been so transparent that anyone possessing the formula and spreadsheet software could’ve duplicated the results on their own computer.

    After the A-F system was implemented, Indiana superintendents were quoted as saying that they were unable to explain how the formula and ratings were determined. These superintendents went on to say that they were unable to get clarification or answers from Bennett’s apparently inexperienced DOE staff. (Were they capable of understanding it?) Apparently the formula was a black box which produced results with no way to understand the mysterious machinery inside.

    Why, with educators’ careers on the line, was this passed into law? After the results gave Christel House an “incorrect” grade, why was the formula adjusted then? Nobody is allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game.

    A lot of people didn’t do their homework on the A-F system–Bennett himself, his reform allies, his staff, and lawmakers who helped pass it into law.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »