INDIANAPOLIS | The State Board of Education approved a plan Wednesday designed to produce more accurate ratings of Indiana schools with nontraditional grade groupings.
The current A-F school grading system, created last year by the Republican-appointed state education board, rates elementary and middle schools according to one set of criteria and high schools by another.
However, schools that don't neatly fall into those categories, such as a grade 6-10 school, suffer under the rating system because they have no score for some components, such as high school graduation rate.
Republican Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent of public instruction, adjusted upward the grades of dozens of schools — without state board permission — to correct for perceived deficiencies in the grading model when he discovered a favored kindergarten-ninth grade charter school was set to receive a low grade.
Controversy over that action prompted Bennett to quit as Florida's schools chief in July.
Current Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, asked the board to set a procedure for rating schools that don't neatly fit the criteria, so she isn't calculating school grades based on spur-of-the-moment fixes.
The board, prompted by Gary's Tony Walker, voted 10-0 to create a combined grading model for schools straddling the divide in which all applicable data, whether from elementary/middle or high school criteria, are used together to set a school's grade.
"Schools that don't fit our rubric should be looked at individually," Walker said. "These schools are being punished because we didn't create a model that accounts for their configuration."
With that settled, preliminary 2012-13 grades for all Indiana schools now are expected to be calculated by Thanksgiving.
At the same time, Indiana law requires the State Board of Education to create by Nov. 15 a new A-F grading model, effective for the 2014-15 school year, that permanently fixes problems inherent in the current grading system.