Top Indiana lawmakers order review of school ratings

2013-08-02T11:55:00Z 2013-08-03T21:17:09Z Top Indiana lawmakers order review of school ratingsDan Carden, (317) 637-9078
August 02, 2013 11:55 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The leaders of the Republican-controlled Indiana House and Senate on Friday hired two reviewers to assess the validity of the state's past method of calculating schools' A-F grades in the wake of the Tony Bennett school grade-changing scandal.

John Grew, executive director of state relations and policy analysis at Indiana University, and Bill Sheldrake, president of Policy Analytics, have been asked to determine by Labor Day whether the 2011-12 grades issued to schools were fair and if there was any manipulation of the grading system.

"The most important thing we can do moving forward is to have an independent and fair assessment of the A-F school grading process," said Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne. "This will help ensure that everyone, from our schools and teachers to our parents and students, can have their confidence restored in this past year's outcomes."

Their findings likely will have little impact beyond potentially restoring Bennett's reputation, as state lawmakers already agreed earlier this year to change the way school grades are calculated in future years.

House Enrolled Act 1427 requires the State Board of Education develop by mid-November a school grading system that uses measures of individual student academic performance and growth to proficiency in each school.

The current grading system, developed by Bennett during his single term as Indiana's schools chief and rubber-stamped by the state board, uses a complicated weighted average of standardized test scores, career-readiness test scores, graduation rates and several other factors to arrive at a single letter grade for each school.

A recent Associated Press report suggests Bennett manipulated that system in 2012 to boost the grade of a charter school backed by a top Republican donor. Bennett denies anything improper occurred. He resigned as Florida's education commissioner Thursday.

Glenda Ritz, the Democratic state superintendent of public instruction, strongly backed the Legislature's efforts to revise how school grades are calculated.

She argued that a more transparent and easier-to-understand model would strengthen the state's school accountability system.

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