EDITORIAL: Make sure A-F grading system doesn't flunk

2013-08-06T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Make sure A-F grading system doesn't flunk nwitimes.com
August 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tony Bennett grade-changing scandal has the nation's education community talking excitedly about how Indiana's former superintendent of public instruction handled school accountability.

Did Bennett grade on a curve with the A to F grading system for schools? In other words, was it a fair system for traditional public schools and charter schools alike? And did he lob a curveball by changing the grade from a C to an A for a generous Republican campaign donor's pet charter school?

Many Hoosiers are eager to change the grade for the school accountability movement, especially the A-F grading system.

Just because the Indiana Department of Education changed the Christel House Academy grade at Bennett's insistence, however, doesn't mean the school accountability idea itself, including the easily understood A-F grading system, is wrong.

What's needed now is an examination of the process, both the way it is designed to work and the way it might have been manipulated.

Bennett resigned his position as Florida's education commissioner Thursday because of this scandal.

Gov. Mike Pence wanted a swift, thorough investigation by the next State Board of Education meeting, which is Wednesday. That doesn't leave time for a thorough investigation.

Bennett himself asked the state's inspector general to investigate, presumably in hope Bennett would be exonerated. 

The call by House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long for an independent review, however, is sound. Dig deep, and see to what extent the system might have been manipulated.

Make sure the evaluation process is as easily understood as the A to F grading scale. Make sure there is little opportunity for tampering with grades, too.

Even as this investigation begins, we must also look for lessons from this incident. Among them is that this scandal, among others, emerged after emails were made public.

The Times and the Hoosier State Press Association were adamantly opposed to legislation in 2001 that would have made government officials' emails secret. Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon vetoed that legislation, fortunately.

There should be more transparency in government, not less.

The current school accountability scandal offers further evidence of the need to keep the public's business public.

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